September is National Suicide Prevention Month, an important issue for those of us who work with children who have suffered trauma. To help long-term with depression and anxiety, we need to find ways to help our children build resilience. Life is going to throw hard things their way in the future. We cannot prevent that happening as they become adults; all we can do is help them develop the skills and attitudes to bounce back. Recent studiesindicate that a good start is being a safe person for children to confide.
The study surveyed more than 17,000 adults, including 651 survivors of child sexual abuse. The researchers found lower levels of good mental health among the abuse survivors than the general population (65% to 77%), but the results for the abuse survivors was nevertheless surprisingly high. When the researchers looked deeper into the results, they found that people with an early history of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or chronic pain were more likely to have currently negative mental health. The strongest predictor of good mental health was having a confidant.
If we are parenting children who have suffered from abuse, the lesson from this study is to (1) give the children a safe place to confide their fears and anxieties, (2) obtain professional help as early as possible for depression, anxiety, or chronic pain, and (3) do everything we can to head off substance abuse.
All too often, reports and studies about child abuse emphasize the negative consequences. There is no doubt that abuse has profound impacts on children. But it does not have to be a psychological death sentence. We can help increase our children’s resilience and, consequently, their ability to have a happy life in spite of their difficulties.
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