Training Helps Children Support Friends During Difficult Times

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Bow, NH – I Support My Friends launched on July 1. A collaboration between the World Health Organization, Save the Children, MHPSS Collaborative and UNICEF, the program helps kids fight trauma by teaching them skills to help other kids cope with traumatic events. While the program is brand new, the principles of Psychological First Aid are heavily influenced.

What Is Psychological First Aid?

Psychological First Aid is a method to assist children, adolescents and families after a traumatic event. The program consists of small units or modules that help survivors, witnesses or responders who experience challenges after distressing events. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the National Center for P.T.S.D. first developed the program. The program not only helps kids fight trauma, but also includes adults and adolescents. Psychological First Aid consists of eight core actions.

  1. Contact and Engagement
  2. Safety and Comfort
  3. Stabilization
  4. Information Gathering on Current Needs and Concerns
  5. Practical Assistance
  6. Connection With Social Supports
  7. Information on Coping
  8. Linkage with Collaboration Services

I Support My Friends

While the training just launched, successful pilot programs took place in Japan, Jordan, Mongolia and Turkey. Giving children skills and knowledge so they know what to do can be a very good way to help kids fight trauma. After all, the first to see how traumatic events affect children often are other children. The training focuses on those aged 9-17. Adults who teach the training program have access to a resource kit. The kit consists of four main sections:

  1. A theory and implementation guide
  2. A three-day children’s course training manual
  3. A participation workbook for children
  4. Manual for facilitator training

Additional sections include monitoring and evaluating training, gender effects and a section on inclusivity. The training helps kids fight trauma by encouraging kids to talk with responsible adults as well as getting support from other kids.

Organizations with an appropriate expertise level can provide the training. Others, like schools, governments or community organizations, can train children as well. A wide reach means working closely with local organizations so communication with local partners is important. Already-in-place programs like disaster preparedness, peacebuilding, child protection or life-skills training can incorporate I Support My Friends into their program. The benefits of including children and adolescents could be a significant way to help kids fight trauma.

Poverty Linked To Childhood Trauma

When targeting areas where the program should focus on, the link between poverty and childhood trauma needs to be understood. A U.K. study from the University College London suggests children are “nine times more likely to face” traumatic experiences when parents are in poverty during pregnancy. Data from 14,000 women, children and partners over the course of multiple decades suggest this. Poverty is strongly linked to reports of sexual abuse, parental separation or parents with drug or alcohol abuse.

Another study from the Economic Policy Institute found a similar result. Children in lower social classes are more likely to experience traumatic events. Kids in families with an income below $20,000 were 18% more likely to experience a traumatic event and 15% more likely to see more than one. In addition, these children were 74% more likely to experience three or more traumatic events. Black children were found to be 45% more likely than white children to witness or experience a traumatic event. The study focused on the United States.

Stress from distressing events can produce damaging effects for the brain. Development in the prefrontal cortex the area that controls learning, memory, attention, anxiety and regulates emotion can be negatively impacted. Along with that, other effects from trauma include high blood pressure and damage to the immune system. People develop significantly in childhood and traumatic events can severely affect a person for the rest of their lives if not properly treated. A program like I Support My Friends could help kids fight trauma by giving kids the tools they need to see the signs and respond in an appropriate manner.

– Alex Alfano
Photo: Flickr

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