Promising Practices to Help Children and Youth who have been Exposed to Violence


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Children and youth in challenging contexts, both in Canada and overseas, face common threats to their mental health that can be better addressed when researchers, service providers, practitioners, and communities pool their knowledge, resources, and lessons learned of what works best for improving young peoples’ mental health. If these groups continue to work within their occupational and disciplinary boundaries, they will fail to mobilize the full potential of the evidence documented by researchers, the practice-related knowledge of service providers and practitioners, and the local knowledge of communities. The CYCC Network was developed in response to this need and in the summer of 2013, released three thematic knowledge synthesis reports: violence, technology, and youth engagement.

Violence against children and youth, in particular, is a complex public health problem that affects communities worldwide, and can lead to potentially devastating consequences for young people and their families if left unaddressed. To tackle this problem, a coordinated effort to share and document best practices for addressing young peoples’ mental health needs is urgently needed. Without opportunities to share this knowledge, there is a risk of delivering potentially ineffective interventions that are difficult for young people and their families to access or relate to. Additionally, poorly-researched or evaluated interventions often ignore the structural barriers (e.g. limited access to mental health practitioners, stigma, and a lack of resources to evaluate programs) that shape young peoples’ mental health and wellbeing. In light of these challenges, the knowledge synthesis report on violence explores the effective strategies used among children and youth in challenging contexts who have been exposed to violence, in order to help them overcome trauma and feel safe in their families, schools, and communities.

Read and download the full report at

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  • 45 minutes – Mike will introduce the report
  • Mike
  • Dalal
  • Mike
  • Dalal or Dave
  • Mike will introduce this diagram and explain it to the audience. In addition to discussing what this triangle means, we can briefly talk about our methods here
  • Not all young people exposed to violence will have severe trauma but they might develop symptoms later in lifeCoping and mental health resourcesInterventions employed among traumatized children and youth often incorporate a range of components that include prevention, treatment, and mental health promotion approaches, all aimed at either preventing or reducing symptoms associated with trauma, or expanding the capacity to cope with adversityIdeally programs would use an Integrated approach would include prevention, treatment and mental health promotionThere are a number of promising examples, but few evaluationsBegin with primary prevention, and then follow up as needed. Start with the advocacy and provision of mental health resources for the general population (level 1), followed by screening and prevention programing for children and youth who are identified as at-risk (level 2). Follow up with referrals for specialized mental health care for children and youth with clear symptoms of trauma and emotional distress (level 3). Finally, monitor and follow the progress of the young person, and ensure that steps are taken to keep them safe from further violence or harm (level 4).
  • Recognize that violence and mental health issues are not individual problems but are shaped by a young person’s interactions with his or her environment (family, peers, community, society). Use this ecological perspective to identify the protective factors that can promote positive mental health, resilience, and a young person’s skills and strengths when faced with a challenging situation, and consider how the protective factors in his or her social environment can be enhanced
  • Triangle - Disciplinary silosThere is a clear need to document effective practices for working with young people affected by violence. Both practice-based and local knowledge should be used to strengthen the evidence base for promising practices and vice versaPromising practices: Need to share what works and document successes and outcomes Equine therapy – what is it?Phoenix CentreProvides individual, family and group therapy within a strength-based model of practiceto demonstrate strong clinical skills in assessment, formulation, and treatment with an ability to utilize flexible strategies for engaging and working with children, youth families and community systemsGives the staff flexUsa range of evidence based treatment modalities and approachesFund non-clinical interventions and promising practices. Scientifically rigorous research takes time to produce, and violence is an issue that must be addressed quickly. Funding promising practices that show positive results but require further testing across different contexts, is just as important as supporting clinically proven ones. This includes supporting community-based mental health promotion efforts that are innovative and build on existing community strengths and resources, particularly in resource poor environments.
  • Prevent and treat violence in inner city schools with multicultural populations and consists of psychoeducational components and individual therapy.Was designed in collaboration with the community using a participatory research modelDesigned with enough flexibility so it could be replicated across multiple contexts, while retaining core components. A couple of RCTs have shown that CBITS is quite effective in reducing depression and PTSD symptoms.addition to asking young people and their families about what works for them, participatory processes of research and practice that invite the collaboration of important community actors, such as traditional healers and community leaders, can be a necessary component of successful mental health intervention delivery. At the same time, they also serve as important tools for overcoming power disparities between children, youth, the community, and researchers or practitioners.
  • How do different groups understand mental illness and healingÉ. Researchers and practitioners must be equally sensitive to the diverse cultural backgrounds of participants, service users, and clients Furthermore, because evidence-based interventions may not always resonate with diverse populations Harris et. al Dance Movement Therapy and Ritual with former child soldiersYouthCAFES – Bosnian refugee families- Culturally relevant forms of healing – sweat lodges with aboriginal youth – problem is lack of evaluation
  • How does the setting impact anonymity and what about stigma, could that cause harmÉ – some studies suggest that universal program that target entire school pop can help to mitigate stigma – others suggest that clinical settings may be more appropriate
  • Promising Practices to Help Children and Youth who have been Exposed to Violence

    1. 1. Promising Practices to Help Children & Youth Exposed to ViolenceReport prepared by: David Morgan & Dalal Abdul-RazzaqAdvisory Committee Members: David Black, David Este, Ian Manion, Christine Wekerle CYCC Network 2013
    2. 2. “Children need a safe place” Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire (Ret’d), Chair of the Senate Committee on The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth
    3. 3. Our Question What are effective strategies to help CYCCs who have been exposed toviolence overcome trauma, and feel safe in their families and communities?
    4. 4. Definition of Violence“The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, and deprivation” World Health Organization (2002)
    5. 5. An Ecological Model Adapted from the World Health Organization’s Ecological Model of Violence (2002)
    6. 6. Challenging ContextsWar and organized violence (war-exposed, displaced, child soldiers, youthgangs, and children of military families)Displacement (immigrant, refugee, homeless, children of military families,and affected by natural disaster)Child labour (children and youth in the workplace, and human trafficking)Care institutions (child welfare, alternative care, foster care, and juveniledetention)Health-related challenges (children and youth with disabilities, chronicillness, and mental illness)Historical oppression and Marginalization (cross-cutting themes)
    7. 7. Pyramid of Evidence
    8. 8. Recommendations
    9. 9. # 1 Build integrated, multi-level approaches to mentalhealth care.Example:Multi-tiered mental health program for war-exposed youth, Bosnia,Herzegovina (Layne et al., 2008).- Tier 1: School wide program – coping, screening, awareness- Tier 2: Trauma-focused group psychotherapy- Tier 3: Individual treatment and counselling
    10. 10. #2 Design strengths-based programs that will enhance ayoung person’s coping skills and resilience in the face ofadversity.Promising Practices:• Building healthy and supportive relationships• Helping parents cope with their own trauma• Skills building• RecreationExample: Gang Prevention, Youth Advocate Program, Halifax NS
    11. 11. #3 Collaborate with communities of practice todocument, share, use, and evaluate practice-basedevidence and local knowledge.Promising Practice:• Building evaluations into the design of a program• Testing different techniques and approachesExample: Equine Therapy with children of military families, Greg Lubimiv,Phoenix Centre for Children & Families, Pembroke, ON
    12. 12. #4 Ensure that vulnerable youth remain safe fromviolence at home, school, and in their communities.Address root causes• Sean Kidd, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) – street-involved youth• Judi Fairholm, Canadian Red Cross – prevention is just as key as treatment
    13. 13. #5 Engage young people, their families, andcommunities in decision-making processes.• Promising practice: participatory research methodsExample:Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in Schools (CBITS) (Jaycox, Kataoka,Stein, Langley & Wong, 2012)
    14. 14. #6 Incorporate culturally sensitive practices into thedesign and implementation of programs andinterventions. Local Knowledge can make interventions meaningful and relevant Promising Practices: • Cultural brokers • Culturally relevant forms of healing – sweat lodges with aboriginal youth – problem is lack of evaluation Example: Harris et. al Dance Movement Therapy and Ritual with former child soldiers
    15. 15. #7 Ensure that the work being done with children andyouth is ethical—actions taken should never causeharm.• Is there a risk of re-traumatization?• Need to test out interventions for potential harm• Stigma• Consent• Confidentiality
    16. 16. #8 Conduct more research to understand what worksfor children and youth affected by health-relatedchallenges (such as HIV AIDS and disabilities), naturaldisaster, and human trafficking.
    17. 17. Thank you