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
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
Dr. Katie McLaughlin is a clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington. She received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology and in Epidemiology and Public Health from Yale University in 2008. Her research seeks to identify psychological and neurobiological mechanisms linking child trauma exposure to the onset of psychopathology in children and adolescents.
Today, Katie writes about what population-based data can tell us about trauma in U.S. children and adolescents.
The media is filled with stories about traumatized children and adolescents, such as the school shootings at Sandy Hook and Columbine. However, a range of more common traumatic events, such as accidents and caregiver maltreatment, receive less attention. We sought to understand how common traumatic experiences are in the lives of U.S. youths by conducting a study examining trauma exposure and PTSD in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A), a nationally-representative sample of 6,483 adolescents aged 13-17. This study is the largest population-based study examining trauma exposure and PTSD in U.S. youths, and the findings reveal trauma and PTSD are significant public health problems in this population.
Trauma Exposure is Pervasive among U.S. Youths
A majority of U.S. youths have experienced a traumatic event by the time they reach adolescence. Sixty-two percent of teenagers have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, including interpersonal violence, serious injuries, natural disasters and death of a loved one, and 19 percent have experienced three or more such events. The prevalence of trauma exposure among children and adolescents is nearly as high as the prevalence in adults based on similar population-based studies.
Traumatic Events do not Occur at Random Continue reading
Do not use psychological debriefing when a child has been exposed to a traumatic event such as assault or a major car crash.
And when you treat a child who has developed Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to trauma, do not use pharmacotherapy either (that is, not as a first line treatment).
Rather, apply the principles of psychological first aid in the direct aftermath of trauma and use trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy to treat PTSD.
These recommendations come from the brand new, very extensive Australian Guidelines for the Treatment of ASD and PTSD. For the first time, the guidelines include separate sections on children and adolescents.
How are the guidelines developed?
The guidelines are mainly informed by a systematic review of the literature and a staged process of expert consensus. People affected by trauma, clinicians and the public have also had varying levels of input. Continue reading