With millions of children and teens affected by trauma each year, should a public health perspective be applied to prevention and treatment? Research suggests up to 40% of those affected will experience lasting traumatic stress symptoms and reaching these children and families with effective treatment is vital. For a myriad of reasons, children and families often do not seek out mental health treatment for these symptoms.

Public Health Approach to Trauma


To address this, the  International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) recently released a call to action paper supporting the need for a public health perspective to assist children and families with the mental health effects of trauma. The key messages from this paper include:


1) Tiered approach (primary, secondary, tertiary) to prevention:  From reducing the risk of trauma (primary prevention) to providing evidence-based mental treatment (tertiary prevention), the paper emphasizes a focus on secondary prevention, reaching children and families soon after a trauma with screening, support, and resources to cope with traumatic stress reactions.


2) Change the way professionals reach children and families with mental health support: In public health, much discussion revolves around the breadth or depth of prevention efforts.  By implementing more e-health / online mental health support and focusing on fostering trauma informed systems, more children and families will receive the support they need in a timely manner.


3) Create messaging and support to reach individuals and communities: Efforts should be made to tailor messaging, especially following catastrophic events, to reach both individuals and communities to help them cope effectively following a trauma and where to find resources for additional support.


Doctors and nurses are key to the secondary prevention of traumatic stress reactions in children and families. By practicing trauma informed care, you help to reduce the psychological impact of trauma and promote emotional recovery for your patients.  Join the conversation on our Facebook page to share how you provide or promote trauma informed care in your daily practice.