Mental Health, Wellness, and Children

Let’s recap:

This month has been about promoting mental health and children’s mental health awareness. We’ve talked about National Children’s Mental Health Week and National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. We’ve also had guest expert blogs about the importance of children’s mental health and the impact of stress on children.

But what is the most important thing to remember and take away from all of this?

Well, prevention and wellness are key!

“Research has shown that children have a wide range of reactions to exposure to violence. Some children are not adversely affected or may show only brief and transient reactions. Others may be more affected, showing significant symptoms and emotional vulnerability. Some develop intense anxiety disorders or posttraumatic stress disorder.” –Safe Start Issue Brief 1, p. 2

The most important thing is the overall well-being of these children.  The protection of their well-being is achieved by building resilience and preventing exposure.

One way of doing this is through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Public Health Model. It provides a great way to start and complete the process of enhancing children’s well-being. By framing it this way, there is a body of proof about building resilience and prevention, it provides the means for identifying those at higher risk, and develops and tests strategies for dissemination to communities. The most important thing is the overall well-being of these children.  The protection of their well-being is achieved by building resilience and preventing exposure.


Understanding Children’s Exposure to Violence Brief #1 shares some ideas about program types and interventions that can both enhance resilience and reduce risks for children exposed to violence.

  • For all children, participation in high-quality early care and education programs can enhance physical, cognitive, and social development and promote readiness and capacity to succeed in school.
  • For at-risk families, early identification of and intervention with high-risk children by early education programs and schools, pediatric care and mental health programs, child welfare systems, and court and law enforcement agencies can prevent threats to healthy development by detecting and addressing emerging problems.
  • For children and families already exposed to violence, intensive intervention programs delivered in the home and in the community can improve outcomes for children well into the adult years and can generate benefits to society that far exceed program costs.
  • Outcomes improve when highly skilled practitioners provide intensive trauma-focused psychotherapeutic interventions to stop the negative chain reaction following exposure to traumatic stressors (e.g., child abuse and neglect, homelessness, severe maternal depression, domestic violence).

For further information check out the full issue brief here.

So, the best thing we can do to promote children’s wellness is to continue to work to raise awareness to identify those at-risk and advance interventions!


Violence Prevention: The public health approach

Check out these headlines. What do they say to you?

2 Dead, 3 Injured in Overnight Shootings

UIC Student Knocked Out During Robbery Near Campus

Teen sexually assaulted on way to school on West Side

Set in the backdrop of suburban Chicago, these news stories represent the ongoing and increasing problem of exposure to violence.

Now that we know there is a serious problem what might communities and individuals do about it?

Earlier this month, the mayor went on the defensive about a surge of recent homicides [in Chicago]. Between the start of 2012 and April 1, Chicago Police recorded 120 homicides, a 60 percent spike over the 75 murders during the same period in 2010 and 2011

Well one solution is to look at preventing violence exposure using a public health approach. This approach is a clear framework to help understand, identify, strategize, and disseminate prevention interventions. The chart below summarizes this framework.

To really get a full understanding of the approach, please see the Center for Disease Control’s comprehensive summary of the Public Health Approach to Violence Prevention.

The most important thing to remember when understanding and learning this approach is that it takes everyone’s participation for it to be a success. There are several examples out there of programs that actively and successfully demonstrate using this approach to prevent and reduce the impact of exposure to violence.

The Safe Start Initiative follows this form of approach. We’ve identified the problem of exposure to violence and know the risks surrounding it. The Center now works on the ongoing development and dissemination of strategies and materials that raise awareness and prevention efforts.

The Public Health Leadership Initiative is yet another example of a program following this approach. They work through partnerships to assist state agencies who work to protect the lives of children and families to prevent child maltreatment.

An even more recent example is the National Summit on Preventing Youth Violence. This annual event is a meeting of programs and individuals to describe, identify, and strategize ways to prevent the crisis of youth and gang violence in the U.S.

These are just a few of the programs/organizations that use a public health approach to prevent violence and its consequences. Violence exposure is a serious problem, but the public health approach is a way to help identify and prevent it from happening further!

If you’d like a detailed and comprehensive list of resources and information about this topic check out the World Health Organization’s Violence publications and resources.

%d bloggers like this: