Health + Behavior

National Center for Child Traumatic Stress at UCLA Commends Mental Health Commission’s Emphasis on Addressing Needs


Directors of the NationalCenter for Child Traumatic Stress commended the President's New Freedom Commission on MentalHealth on July 25 for recognizing the seriousness of traumatic stress and theneed to better address the mental health needs of children.

Consequencesof untreated child traumatic stress in children include other mental healthproblems, substance abuse, trouble in school, and a loss of hope in the future.

The commission's report,released July 22, identifies "trauma," or traumatic stress, as one of fourareas that need more study and also highlights the ongoing mental health needsof children.

"This is encouraging newsfor the thousands of children and families affected by trauma in our nationeach year," said center co-director Dr. Robert Pynoos, professor of psychiatryat the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute.

"Thecommission identifies the research and treatment of trauma as an importantfocus of mental health reform," said center co-director John Fairbank, Ph.D.,of Duke University School of Medicine.

Pynoos and Fairbankcommended the commission for other positive recommendations that actively aresupported by the center and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network,including:

        Connectingfragmented mental health systems to bridge gaps in services for the care ofchildren.

        Supportinggreater use of and improving access to evidence-based practices in treatment.

        Acceleratingresearch so treatments for trauma can continue to be refined and improved.

        Earlyscreening and identification of mental illnesses in children.

        Improvingaccess to treatments in communities.

        Improvinglinks to other service systems, such as juvenile justice and schools.

        Improvingcultural competence in treatment.

        SupportingPresident Bush's call for parity in insurance coverage of treatments.

"Our nation's policymakers —under the leadership of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health ServicesAdministration—should work quickly and decisively to enact and implement theserecommendations," Pynoos said.

"Each of these issues mustbe addressed for children as well as for adults," said Fairbank.

The report clearlyidentified the treatment of children and early identification and interventionas important components of addressing our nation's mental health needs.

Morethan 25 percent of American youth experience a serious traumatic event by their16th birthday, and many children suffer multiple and repeated traumas. Common sources of trauma include abuse and neglect; seriousaccidental injury; disasters and terrorism; experiencing or witnessing violencein neighborhoods, schools and homes; and treatment for life-threateningillness.

Traumaticstress can interfere with children's ability to concentrate and learn andseriously delay development of their brains and bodies. It can lead todepression, substance abuse, other mental health problems, educationalimpairment and other difficulties. Treatment from a mental health professionalwho has training and experience working with traumatized children can reducechild traumatic stress and minimize physical, emotional, and socialproblems.

With funding from the Centerfor Mental Health Services, a branch of the Substance Abuse and Mental HealthServices Administration within the U.S. Department of Health and HumanServices, child traumatic stress research and treatment centers from around thecountry formed the National Child Traumatic Stress Network in 2001.

By 2004, the network willinclude more than 50 sites working collaboratively to address the issues ofchild trauma in our nation. This congressionally directed initiative recognizesthe profound, destructive, and widespread impact of trauma on Americanchildren's lives. The network's mission is raise the standard of care andimprove access to services for traumatized children, their families andcommunities throughout the United States.

The role of UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and DukeUniversity as directors of the joint coordinating center is to provideadministrative resources, data management, and research and clinical expertiseto members of the initiative. In addition, the center will monitor and evaluatethe activities of members.

The UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute is aninterdisciplinary research and education institute devoted to the understandingof complex human behavior, including the genetic, biological, behavioral andsociocultural underpinnings of normal behavior, and the causes and consequencesof neuropsychiatric disorders. In addition to conducting fundamental research,the institute faculty seeks to develop effective treatments for neurologicaland psychiatric disorders, improve access to mental health services and shapenational health policy regarding neuropsychiatric disorders.

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