Trauma

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, each year, children experience violence, disaster, and other traumas. Young people are injured, see others harmed by violence, suffer sexual abuse, lose loved ones, and/or witness other tragic and shocking events. Parents and caregivers can help children overcome these experiences and start the process of recovery.

“Trauma” is often thought of as physical injuries. Psychological trauma is an emotionally painful, shocking, stressful, and sometimes life-threatening experience. It may or may not involve physical injuries and can result from witnessing distressing events. Examples include a natural disaster, physical or sexual abuse, and terrorism. Disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods can claim lives, destroy homes or whole communities, and cause serious physical and psychological injuries. Trauma can also be caused by acts of violence, such as the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, mass shootings in schools or communities, and physical or sexual assault. Traumatic events threaten our sense of safety. Reactions (responses) to trauma can be immediate or delayed.

Warning Signs

Reactions to trauma differ in severity and cover a wide range of behaviors and responses. Children with existing mental health problems, past traumatic experiences, and/or limited family and social supports may be more reactive to trauma. Frequently experienced responses among children after trauma are loss of trust and a fear of the event happening again.

  • Thinking about what happened

  • Aggression or irritability

  • Body aches

  • Having trouble at school

  • Nightmares or difficulty sleeping

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Refusing to go to school

More Information

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

NIMH offers free print materials in English and Spanish.

Children's Mental Health Matters

Learn more about children's mental health.

Children’s Mental Health Matters Trauma Fact Sheet

Trauma is a normal reaction that occurs in response to an extreme event. Learn how trauma can affect your child and how you can help.

May 14, 2018

Young People Celebrate Mental Health through Art

One of the annual highlights of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week is the Celebrating Through Art: The First Lady's Mental Health Awareness Youth Art Display & Reception hosted by Maryland First Lady Yumi Hogan in Annapolis, which was held last Monday.…

September 7, 2018

Kids Are Back in School! Here Are Some Mental Health Tips for Families

This week throughout Maryland, kids returned to school after a long summer break. For many kids, it's a time of excitement as they reconnect with old friends, meet their teachers and get back into the school routine. For some kids, though, this time of transition can cause anxiety. …

Children’s Mental Health Matters Trauma Fact Sheet

Trauma is a normal reaction that occurs in response to an extreme event. Learn how trauma can affect your child and how you can help.

May 14, 2018

Young People Celebrate Mental Health through Art

One of the annual highlights of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week is the Celebrating Through Art: The First Lady’s Mental Health Awareness Youth Art Display & Reception hosted by Maryland First Lady Yumi Hogan in Annapolis, which was held last Monday.

September 7, 2018

Kids Are Back in School! Here Are Some Mental Health Tips for Families

This week throughout Maryland, kids returned to school after a long summer break. For many kids, it’s a time of excitement as they reconnect with old friends, meet their teachers and get back into the school routine. For some kids, though, this time of transition can cause anxiety.

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