Responding to Students with PTSD in Schools

Published In: Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, v. 21, no. 1, 2012, p. 119-133

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2012

by Sheryl H. Kataoka, Audra K. Langley, Marleen Wong, Shilpa Baweja, Bradley D. Stein

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The prevalence of trauma exposure among youth is a major public health concern, with a third of adolescents nationally reporting that they have been in a physical fight in the past twelve months and 9% having been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property. Studies have documented the broad range of negative sequelae of trauma exposure for youth, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), other anxiety problems, depressive symptoms, and dissociation. In addition, decreased IQ and reading ability, lower grade-point average (GPA), more days of school absence, and decreased rates of high school graduation have been associated with exposure to traumatic events. Evidence suggests that youth exposed to trauma have decreased social competence and increased rates of peer rejection. Therefore, students who have experienced a traumatic event are at increased risk for academic, social, and emotional problems as a result of these experiences. Schools can be an ideal setting for mental health professionals to intervene with traumatized students, by supporting both their trauma-related psychological problems and their ability to learn in the classroom. The President's New Freedom Commission Report on Mental Health also highlights the need to improve access to services that address trauma-related mental health problems, especially in naturalistic settings such as schools where youth can readily receive these services.

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