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New Report Highlights Integrated Health Approach to Help Youth Impacted by Traumatic Events

May 10, 2018

A new report, Helping Children and Youth Who Have Traumatic Experiences, shows that nearly half of the nation’s children have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. An integrated health approach can help them cope and live healthier lives.

Traumatic events may involve abuse and neglect, witnessing domestic violence, and growing up with family members who have mental illness or substance use disorders. These children and youth are at risk of developing serious emotional disturbances or serious mental illness. They may adopt negative coping mechanisms, such as substance use or self-harm.

With the right support, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) report says children can make major improvements in their behavioral and emotional health.

The report says the key to this improvement is care coordination across multiple systems that work with children's services. Data shows that after one year of coordinated treatment:

  • Rates of suicidal thoughts among youth who experienced trauma and received treatment through systems of care were reduced 68 percent and suicide attempts were reduced 78 percent
  • Displays of externalizing behaviors (not following rules, exhibiting aggressive behavior, or expressing behaviors that are difficult to manage) were reduced 17 percent
  • Internalizing symptoms, such as withdrawing from others and being anxious or depressed, were reduced 22 percent

Primary care providers, behavioral health professionals, and hospitals are working to place more focus on the collective social, emotional, behavioral, and physical health needs of children, youth, and young adults. Best practices include:

  • Modeling effective communication between behavioral health providers, primary care providers, families, and youth
  • Addressing the needs of youth with co-occurring chronic illnesses and mental and/or substance use disorders

A number of Pennsylvania hospitals have adopted specialized programs to work with children, families, and community partners to support children and youth who have experienced trauma.

For information about HAP’s behavioral health advocacy and policy initiatives, contact Jennifer Jordan, vice president, regulatory advocacy.

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