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New study explores depth of trauma young patients experience before admission

A new study has found that young people admitted to secure psychiatric hospitals in the UK have experienced the same amount of trauma as war ravaged countries.

The research, led by St Andrew's consultant psychologist Deborah Morris, was published in the ‘Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities’ journal. The study found that young people with Development Disorders are significantly more likely to be exposed to childhood trauma before admission to a secure psychiatric hospital.

The research paper entitled “Troubled Beginnings”, found that 91.7% of the participants had experienced some form of Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs), including physical and emotional abuse, parental neglect, experiencing or witnessing violence, or being exposed to criminal behaviour.

 Alarmingly the paper found that the male adolescents in the study had experienced similar rates of trauma as their peers in war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo, rated as one of the least developed countries in the world.

Deborah Morris explained: “The traumatic events which these children are experiencing can be life limiting and can have a profound and enduring impact of a person’s neurological development.

“In fact we know through previous studies that adolescents who have experienced abuse or neglect find it much harder to develop complex cognitive and interpersonal skills and are unable to process and regulate their emotions, which is likely to have an impact, as we found in this study, on them being admitted to secure psychiatric hospitals.”

In addition, the study found that the majority of participants had also experienced high levels of disruption in the care, with an average of four placement breakdowns.

“With many children being passed from service to service through the system, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Providers should consider treating children both for their development disorder, and the trauma they have experienced,” Deborah added.

“The UN Convention of the Rights of the Child clearly states that disabled child have the right to be free of violence, neglect, exploitation and abuse. The current findings suggest that these rights, in a proportion of children with developmental disorders in the UK, are not currently being upheld.”

To read the research paper, click here.