The important role of policy in addressing childhood trauma during COVID-19 and beyond

 

By Renee Gross, JD
Health Policy Consultant, Kaiser Permanente

Over the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused everyone to grapple with uncertainty and manage new stressors at home, at work, and in our communities.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll indicated that 45% of Americans report that the current crisis is harming their mental health. We are facing unprecedented disruption in our daily lives and navigating a world of school and business closures, job losses, social distancing, food access and housing constraints, and other types of economic hardship.

While these circumstances are challenging for adults, they can be especially difficult for children, who may not understand why their lives have changed so dramatically. Older youth may feel a sense of loss or unfairness about not being able to attend school, see their friends, or experience key events in their passage to adulthood.

This pandemic has brought to the forefront a conversation about the lasting effects of trauma during childhood. Trauma has long been a societal problem with profound effects on people’s physical and mental well-being throughout life.

Prior to the current crisis, many efforts were underway to prevent or mitigate the effects of childhood trauma. Kaiser Permanente is committed to being a leader of this work in the communities we serve in partnership with community agencies, schools, and other health systems. This includes supporting a variety of policy approaches that governments at all levels can take to address trauma. We hope that these policies can serve as a guide for policymakers and advocates looking for new ways to support children in the months ahead.

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