The mother of a child killed in the Newtown school shootings spoke to staff at Connecticut Children's Medical Center Tuesday morning. Nelba Marquez-Greene was a featured speaker during a lecture on child traumatic stress and PTSD.
Marquez-Greene's daughter, Ana Grace, was one of 26 people killed last December. The hospital hosted the pediatric trauma discussion as the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings approaches. But trauma is an issue that affects many children, not just those involved in high-profile tragedies.
According to the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut, 60 percent of children have experienced some sort of trauma by the time they turn 17. Trauma comes in many forms, such as physical or sexual abuse, a life-threatening accident, the loss of a parent, or exposure to natural disasters.
Marquez-Greene told the audience that all children deserve to feel safe. She said, "When I talk about it being a public health crisis, I wasn't kidding. " Marquez-Greene spoke about her surviving child. "Right now, Isaiah, having lost his sister in this traumatic way, qualifies as one of those kids who has lived a traumatic experience. And as a parent, I want to know everything I can to keep my child healthy." She said family doctors should be trained to ask about a child's physical and mental health.
Robert Franks, Director of the Child Health and Development Institute, told the hospital staff at the lecture that data shows there is a gap. "Pediatricians are the least comfortable addressing trauma," he said. "Physicians tend to underestimate the rate of traumatic reactions in the children they serve, and at times may actually misdiagnose or misinterpret those symptoms as having other causes."
The institute is working on a strategy with pediatric providers to screen children for trauma exposure. Franks said often, trauma in a child's life goes unreported, and that can have negative effects in adulthood.