Psychologist Emma Citron: Terrorism and children’s mental health

Terrorism can take it’s toll on anyone’s mental health, let alone a child. That’s why it’s important to voice any concerns about your child’s behaviour or emotions after an attack to a GP.

Katie Farnsworth still suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder seven months after the Manchester bombing attack in May 2017. After going to the doctors she was referred to cognitive behavioural therapy to help her talk through what happened that night.

Consultant clinical psychologist, Emma Citron specialises in children and trauma and advises all parents to take their child to a GP if they are concerned about a child’s mental health after an attack, whether they were directly or indirectly involved.

“Firstly go to your GP and discuss it with them. You can do cognitive therapy even with quite young children, from about 6. And help them to gently shift their perspective and look at other points of view.

“If they seem significantly distressed for more than two weeks that’s the yard stick, then they might justify a referral to CAMHS, the child and adolescent mental health team, where hopefully they can help and see a psychologist in order to get some anxiety management.”

Ms Citron explains: “If you have anxiety as a result of terrorism, say the child was 8 or 9, and they were coming to see me, as well as doing a thorough assessment of their thoughts and beliefs, often they get fixated thoughts and beliefs that one can work with in a cognitive behaviour framework in order to gently help them to reassess other points of view and look at the evidence.

“‘What’s the evidence that, heaven forbid, you might be blown up on the tube when you have to go into town at the weekend?’ And what’s the evidence that, actually, you’re likely to be fine?”

Most schools across the country have a school councillor on site who a child can go to if they are feeling anxious or worried about an attack or terrorism.

“By all means tell them if they’re feeling anxious at school to find a named person and sort out that process behind the scenes” the psychologist added.

If a child comes to their parents with high anxiety Ms Citron advises:

“In the first instance I would just be there for them, listen to them. Try not to put too many ideas or advice or opinions on the table. But rather just listen to their version of events and respond to that.”

The psychologist recommends a children’s mindfulness book called Sitting Still Like A Frog.

“It gives some simple mindfulness techniques that might help to calm them if they’re feeling anxious” she added.




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