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Troubled youngsters 're-traumatised by those supposed to help them'

Published 12/07/2016

Children are often treated as
Children are often treated as "the problem" when they react badly to issues such as neglect or abuse, says the charity YoungMinds

Doctors, teachers, social workers and police officers risk "re-traumatising" vulnerable children because of a lack of understanding about how youngsters react to problems in childhood, a charity has warned.

YoungMinds has called for those who interact with youngsters to improve their understanding of how traumatic childhood experiences - such as neglect, abuse, bereavement or prejudice - can affect their behaviour.

The call comes after a new report concluded that some vulnerable children are treated as "the problem" if they communicate their feelings by being aggressive, self-destructive, withdrawn or highly sexualised.

The charity warned that this means the cause of a child's trauma may not be addressed and they don't receive the appropriate mental health care.

"The last thing vulnerable children need is to be re-traumatised by services that should be helping them," said YoungMinds chief executive Sarah Brennan.

"If a young person who has been neglected reacts to their feelings by being aggressive at school and is excluded, it reinforces the neglect and low self-worth that they originally experienced.

"If a teenager who's being abused joins a gang to find a sense of belonging, but ends up in a young offenders' institution, it can lead to a career of crime and violence when the issues could have been addressed early on.

"Across the board, services need to focus less on 'correcting' behaviour, and more on identifying and addressing the underlying causes of childhood trauma. There are social and financial gains for the young person - but also the whole of society by doing this. Not doing anything makes no sense at all."

The charity also said that c hildren who have had traumatic experiences should be fast-tracked for mental health support.

Meanwhile, the Government should establish an expert group to improve understanding of adverse experiences in childhood.

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