CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Up to 1/3 of Urban Children My Have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

From Countless children in San Francisco's toughest neighborhoods experience murder, violence and trauma - an often unavoidable consequence of living in an urban war zone.

The violence, layers of it overlapping year after year, can eventually take up residence in the children's minds. Like combat veterans, they develop post-traumatic stress disorder - the soldier's sickness.

As many as one-third of children living in our country's violent urban neighborhoods have PTSD, according to recent research and the country's top child trauma experts - nearly twice the rate reported for troops returning from war zones in Iraq.

Los Angeles Unified officials conduct annual surveys, finding similar rates of PTSD within the schools in that city's most violent neighborhoods. Implementing a group treatment program, one developed by the district, has come in fits and starts, however.

In the Bay Area and across the country, meanwhile, PTSD in these urban children is generally undiagnosed, untreated and almost completely off the radar for policymakers and education officials.

A Stanford University researcher, however, believes schools should be on the front lines when it comes to recognizing and treating children with symptoms of PTSD, and has identified Visitacion Valley Middle School as the ideal place to test a therapy involving 17 one-on-one sessions with a trained counselor.

"We have to pay a lot more attention to this," said Dr. Victor Carrion, director of the Stanford Early Life Stress Research Program. "PTSD basically feeds on avoidance. The more you avoid it, the worse it gets."

But Carrion lacks ongoing funding and said the study has stalled despite a waiting list of students at the school. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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