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Youth mental health and a global echo pandemic escalates demand for supportive adults

Online training and public health campaign gives adult caregivers a new way to simply ‘be’ around children and build trauma-informed communities.

While COVID-19 physically impacts some, it has impacted mental health on a much broader scale. Youth mental health issues have caused a global echo pandemic of increased incidences of depression, anxiety, and suicide, escalating the demand for both therapists and other supportive adults who are mentally healthy themselves. 

According to early findings from an international survey of children and adults in 21 countries conducted by UNICEF and Gallup, a median of 1 in 5 young people aged 15–24 surveyed said they often feel depressed or have little interest in doing things. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study reported a 31% increase in the proportion of mental health–related emergency department visits for youth aged 12–17 years during 2020 as compared to 2019.

Stress-induced cognitive and physical impairments and toxic stress related to the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic has been prolonged and exaggerated. Another recent survey found that 64% of teens believe “the experience of COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on their generation’s mental health,” and 6 in 10 teens say their sources of support are harder to reach than normal.

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The science of early adversity proves that in the absence of protective relationships, toxic stress in childhood can change the architecture of the developing brain. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) impact everything–classroom behaviors, learning and comprehension, the ability to self-regulate–and can dramatically heighten the risk for future mental and physical health concerns. 

Center for Child Counseling (CFCC), a non-governmental organization operating in the United States, recently launched A Way of Being with Children: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Building Resilience.‘ This online training, accessible from anywhere in the world, for parents, teachers, childcare workers, or anyone who regularly interacts with children and families, along with a public health campaign, aim to build more trauma-informed communities so that children can grow up with adults who understand the impact of trauma and adversity and do not risk re-traumatizing children through their words or actions.

Being trauma-informed involves understanding, sensitivity, and a deep knowledge of how trauma can affect a child’s growing brain and potentially result in lifelong physical and mental health implications.

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The 5.5 hour online course, accompanied by a spiral-bound manual with over 80 pages of practical advice and technique-building exercises, introduces a new way for adults to simply “be” around children–a better way that can help bring families closer together and make the time spent with children happier and more fulfilling. Based on decades of research into childhood brain development and the expertise of countless childcare workers and professional therapists, “A Way of Being” aims to create family and school relationships where children feel accepted and parents and teachers feel empowered. 

Center for Child Counseling was founded in 1999 with the vision that every child will grow up feeling safe and nurtured in communities where they can thrive. CFFC’s work started Florida childcare centers, providing therapeutic support for young children experiencing adversity and trauma, while equipping their caregivers with effective practices for building social-emotional well-being and resilience. 

The Center’s work has expanded beyond childcare centers to now working with children birth to age 18 in schools, the community, and the child welfare system. A primary goal is to help providers, educators, caregivers, and child-serving systems to shift their everyday ‘way of being’ with children, families, and communities who have experienced adversity and trauma from a “What’s wrong with you?” to a “What happened to you?” approach. Using a prevention and healing-centered lens, CFCC focuses on changing the systems and practices that keep adversity and trauma firmly in place. 

For over two decades, CFCC has worked in partnership with families and communities, interacting with children in their most natural state of being: when they are at play. “A Way of Being” was developed based on this work and research over the last twenty years–grounded in science, guided by the voices of the families helped, and founded on best-practice principles using a trauma-informed, racial-equity lens. 

In conjunction with the online training, the Center has also launched a public health campaign on social media–including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube–promoting this new way of being. The campaign aims to build awareness and education of the positive ways that adults can interact with the children in their lives to build lifelong resilience. 

“The goal is for all community members to understand and own the idea that we each have a stake and role in child and family wellbeing. The need for adults to provide positive mental health support has significantly increased during COVID-19. Children have tremendous potential–which our society needs–and which we have a shared obligation to foster and protect,” said Reneé Layman, chief executive officer of Center for Child Counseling. 

For more information on “A Way of Being” online training and manual, click here. 

About Center for Child Counseling
Since 1999, Center for Child Counseling has been building the foundation for playful, healthful, and hopeful living for children and families. Its services focus on preventing and healing the effects of adverse experiences and toxic stress on children, promoting resiliency and healthy family, school, and community relationships. 

Twitter: @ChildCounselPBC Facebook: @CenterforChildCounseling Instagram: @childcounselpbc

Public Health Campaign

Click here to view a sample of the public health approach awareness campaign being used on social media.

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