Mental Health Needs for Children and Adolescents Following Injury
Feb 20, 2019
Experiencing an injury can be a traumatic event for children and adolescents as well as their parents and caregivers. Children hospitalized for an injury are at increased risk for behavioral health concerns and increased stress.
Children hospitalized with unintentional injuries have an average 63 percent increase in mental health diagnoses and a 155 percent increase in medications prescribed to treat a mental illness.
While not all children experience long-term emotional problems related to injuries, there are some things to be aware of to help your child during recovery.
After the Injury, you may see:
Difficulty sleeping (nightmares, jerky movements during sleep, frequent awakenings)
Behavioral regression (will no longer sleep in own bed, toileting accidents)
Inattention (cannot focus on schoolwork or activities)
Hypervigilance (overly anxious, acting as if they are waiting for something to happen)
New or excessive fears (fear of riding in a vehicle or returning to activity where injury occurred)
Avoidance of typical or normal situations or objects
Visions of frequent memories of the event (flashbacks)
These are normal responses to trauma, especially within the first several weeks. However, these symptoms should not be ignored.
What should you do?
Return child and family to regular routine
Establish structure in daily routine – this increases predictability and decreases fears or worries
Set limits on behavior (return to regular rules)
Be consistent with feedback to minimize inappropriate behavior
Be open to discuss events related to the injury event with your child
Encouraged independence when possible to help regain confidence and sense of safety
Use the incident as an opportunity to teach safe behaviors
Whenever possible, do not avoid situation or place where injury event occurred – this will help your child be more cautious and overcome fears
If you have concerns about your child’s behavior following an injury, consult a pediatric psychologist to address your concerns. To learn more about Nationwide Children’s Department of Pediatric Psychology and Neuropsychology, click here.
Dr. Leonard is an associate professor of pediatrics at Nationwide Children's Hospital and the Ohio State University College of Medicine. She is a board-certified pediatric emergency medicine subspecialist and practices medicine in the emergency department at Nationwide Children's Hospital. At Nationwide Children's Hospital Research Institute, she serves as the director of clinical research for the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the associate director for the Center for Pediatric Trauma Research.
Sarah VerLee, PhD
Sarah VerLee, PhD, is a psychologist in the Pediatric Psychology Program at Nationwide Children's Hospital and a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Dr. VerLee is a team psychologist for the Burn Program.
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