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How are children impacted after exposed to violence, trauma?

Children can experience life-changing impacts once exposed to trauma and violence.

A local expert on child mental health is sounding an alarm about the future, as more and more children are exposed to violence or trauma in the community or at home.

The doctor has written a new guide on the problems and treatment strategies to help children grow up with resilience and beat the odds.

After the crime tape comes down, after the flood water is pumped away, after a battered spouse leaves with the children, or a divorce is final, the life-changing trauma is far from over for babies, children or teens.

"Trauma not only affects behaviors and emotion, but also affects brain development early in life," explained Dr. Joy D. Osofsky, The Paul J. Ramsay Chair and Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine.

After many years of working with children who have been through trauma or violence, Dr. Osofsky is stressing the life-long toll they can take on behavior and relationships, and the urgency to intervene very early on, when the brain is rapidly developing.

"Because early relationships form the basis of all later relationships, they learn to expect, even in the first year of life, how they will be treated," she said.

So Dr. Osofsky has released a two-volume guide that is being called a must-read for anyone who deals with youth, from newborn through teen years. She says children need to be protected from real violence, and TV and video game violence. She also emphasized that if they don't learn trust from someone when they are very young, it will be hard for them to trust people in adult relationships.

"Even a police officer in the community who reach, can reach out to a young child, or where they can trust them enough to form that relationship, can make a difference," she said.

Helping young children early can reverse behavior and even physical health problems that can show up in school, on the streets, in a marriage and career, plaguing a person for the rest of his or her life.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the LSU Health, Mental Health Resource hotline at 504-228-6196.

The book: “Violence and Trauma in the Lives of Children,” Praeger Publishers, ABC-CLIO, 2018, edited by Joy D. Osofsky and Betsy McAlister Groves, can be found where books are sold.

Meg Farris can be reached at mfarris@wwltv.com.

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