fbpx Childhood Trauma Is Not Just a Mental Health Problem
Authored by Nexus Family Healing on September 24, 2020

Exposure to continuous trauma causes the body’s alarm system to be easily triggered, releasing stress hormones that interfere with reasoning and activate that flight, fight, or freeze response. Children cannot learn or get along with friends or family members when living in a constant state of fight, flight or freeze. Rather, their goal is to survive.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study demonstrated that the more adverse childhood experiences one goes through, the higher their risk of seven of the top 10 leading causes of death in the US.  One study demonstrated that people with six or more ACEs died an average of 20 years earlier than those without ACEs. The ACE Study demonstrated that trauma is both a mental and physical health problem. To learn your ACE score and more about this study visit: www.acestoohigh.com

Although most children exposed to trauma are extremely resilient with the support of stable, caring adults, some children need trauma-specific mental health treatment. Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is a treatment model designed to help children and their families overcome traumatic experiences. To learn more about TF-CBT and other evidence-based treatment models visit www.nctsn.org.

Childhood trauma calls for collaboration.

It takes all of us to successfully address childhood trauma. Children living with its effects are in our community - every city, big or small.

They need

  • families, teachers, and childcare providers to understand that their challenging behavior is a cry for help, even when it seems to be a personal attack or defiance.
  • adults to acknowledge trauma and accommodate their needs to help them acquire new coping skills to be successful at home and school.
  • legislators and school administrators who recognize the need for social emotional curriculum and value it as much as any other academic curriculum.
  • helping professionals who feel supported and have access to the resources needed to help families manage challenging behavior.
  • their own families to be empowered by systems that are committed to including them because we know children have the best chance when we support their families.
  • systems that are committed to screen for traumatic stress as a possible explanation for their educational or behavioral difficulties because we will never know if we don’t ask.
  • communities that encourage collaboration to address the various forms of inequality that exist in our culture and are so often at the root of trauma.

These solutions are critical for ALL children – not just those coping with traumatic stress. All children will benefit from trauma-sensitive systems and communities. One person, family, or system cannot do it alone. It is all of us. Together.


This blog article was contributed by Heather Simonich, Operations Director for Nexus-PATH, an agency of Nexus Family Healing.

Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health servicesfoster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.