Below the Surface: Exploring Trauma & Mental Health

Each May as we recognize Mental Health Awareness Month, I pause to consider the many ways that mental health can be influenced and impacted, starting in childhood and continuing through adulthood.

iceberg.jpgOf course, one of the areas that has received a lot of focus from educational professionals and medical professionals is the lasting impact that trauma has on an individual throughout his/her development.

The statistics that have surfaced out of this research are startling, to say the least. At least 5 million children experience trauma each year; that is 1 out of every 4 students in the classroom. What defines trauma, however, may come as even more of a surprise: in addition to accidents and illness, traumatic experiences can arise out of living in poverty.

With an estimated 20% of all children in the United States living in poverty, the outgrowth of this could be profound. Worse, the effects of trauma are deep and lasting: it has been directly correlated to lower GPAs, decreased reading ability, attention/memory/cognition challenges and increased behavior problems.

In response, schools, child-care facilities and even community support organizations are coming together to bring informed teaching methods into these settings. Some of these tactics include:

  • Establishing safety
  • Expressing feelings and coping
  • Behavior management
  • Connecting to social supports

With 70% of mental disorders onset prior to the age of 25, the childhood and adolescent years are a critical window in which mental health can be addressed, and overall mental wellness can be promoted.

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