Continuing our efforts to support awareness of mental health issues during National Mental Health Month, we turn to how violence and trauma affect children. The impact of violence and trauma on children has led RAND and its partners to focus not only on studying the problem, but working collaboratively to find interventions that help address a significant public health need. Indeed, children's exposure to violence is a significant health issue in the United States. Between 20 percent and 50 percent of children every year are touched by violence, either as victims or, even more commonly, as witnesses. Even more are exposed to natural disasters, accidents, or the traumatic loss of a loved one. The emotional impact may be profound. Children exposed to violence frequently develop post-traumatic stress symptoms. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, poorer school performance, more days of school absence, and feelings of depression and anxiety. Violence affects all racial, ethnic, and economic groups, but its burden falls disproportionately on poor and minority children—the same children whose mental health needs are least likely to be met by the health care system.
School settings can be a promising setting for addressing this gap in the mental health care system. Therefore, a team of clinician-researchers from RAND and several other institutions in the Los Angeles area (UCLA, Los Angeles Unified School District, and USC) collaborated to develop, implement, and evaluate a school-based program designed to help children traumatized by violence.