Imagine a 7-year old boy living in India. One day, his father gets drunk and kills his mother. The boy is a witness to the homicide, and develops a high fever as a response. Imagine you’re the mental health professional who is called to support the boy. Some of the things you would want to know are how children in India respond to severe trauma, what words they use, and what helps them to recover.
Unfortunately, that information is virtually inexistent. Traditionally, trauma research has been conducted in high-income, Western countries. This does make sense from a resources perspective, but it does not make sense from a clinical perspective: we should know most about those who are most in need. Trauma from community violence, war, accidents, and natural disasters hits those in low income countries more than those in high income countries.
But is this imbalance actually still the case? Continue reading
The plane crash in Ukraine brings up many questions related to loss and grief. How will those left behind cope with the devastating event? How can we support them? With regard to how young people cope with bereavement, Mariken Spuij’s recent PhD thesis provides new insights. She studied grief and its pathological extreme, Prolonged Grief Disorder, focusing on three topics:
- The phenomenology and correlates of Prolonged Grief Disorder
- The role of negative thinking in Prolonged Grief Disorder
- The development and piloting of the ‘Grief-Help’ intervention for children
Prolonged Grief Disorder
Pathological grief is characterized by persistent severe distress during more than 6 months after the loss, and including symptoms such as separation distress, disbelief regarding the death, numbness, and a sense that life is meaningless. Many of the symptoms are normal grief reactions; it is their intensity and duration that signal a need for additional support.
Similar to the relation between trauma and PTSD, Dr. Spuij and colleagues concluded that Continue reading
How many children develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder after a traumatic experience such as an assault, a car crash, war or disaster? William Yule – one of the godfathers of child traumatic stress research – once pointed out that rates reported in separate studies varied from 0 to 100%.
So what is the average rate to be expected? With an international team of collaborators, we conducted a meta-analysis to answer this question.
The wide variety in individual study results suggests that various factors may be in play: apparently not every type of exposure, set of circumstances or group of children is related to similar PTSD rates. In addition, there may be methodological variation in the studies. Continue reading
Worldwide, more than 175,000 new cases of childhood cancer are diagnosed each year.
Georgie Johnstone, a recent vacation scholar at the Trauma Recovery Lab talks you through some thought-provoking new research on cancer and PTSD.
Overall, in children under 15 years living in the industrialised world, childhood cancer is the 4th most common cause of death. However, childhood cancer is no longer the death sentence it once was, with overall survival rates in high-income countries now at about 80 percent.
How are survivors affected by the potentially traumatic experience of their diagnosis and treatment, and how does it impact on the rest of their life and that of their family? Research has indicated that cancer survivors are at an increased risk not only from somatic late effects related to cancer and treatment, but also for depression, anxiety and antisocial behaviour. Lifetime prevalence of cancer-related PTSD has been estimated at 20-35% in survivors and 27-54% in their parents. However, new research in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has challenged these estimates.
The risk of a focusing illusion
We know that parents are incredibly important for children’s recovery from a traumatic event. Social support is one of the strongest predictors of trauma recovery. On the other hand, parental distress after trauma is related to children’s posttraumatic stress later on.
But how do parents exactly influence children’s trajectory after something bad has happened? Continue reading