War Children: Mental Health Assessment framework for kids

war children

War eventually means violence. Children should never be terrified and should always be protected from all sorts of aggression. Many of children in Gaza have been traumatized as a result of Israel’s assault on the Gaza and the West Bank region.

“Flashbacks, nightmares, agoraphobia: even children are not spared from the repercussions of war” – UNICEF

The conflict has been ongoing for more than 100 years. Children in the region are forced to live in a situation where tension and terror is a part and parcel of their everyday life.  Children are facing war violence everywhere- be it their schools and homes. Being the victims of war, thousands on children are killed or harmed, physically and mentally.

Read about the Children of Palestine

The disastrous war in Palestine is a tragedy. The war’s consequences are still till today being felt in Palestine. Palestine has suffered a major setback due to environmental issues, migratory risks, a lack of education, and catastrophe psychology. These consequences have made life more difficult than it was previously.

Disasters are generally unforeseen and disruptive, making it difficult for kids to reestablish a sense of control and normalcy. Wars are the source of a mass trauma that creates the opportunity for adverse effects in the mental health of children. Physical harms are tangible and treatable but mental harms on the other hand- are not the same.  

Responders and mental health practitioners who are positioned to aid children and families just after emergency may not have the capabilities or expertise to meet these requirements in the case of such extreme cases like wars. Understanding the complexity of the children’s assessment in crisis situations is a tough proposition.

Betty Pfefferbaum, Anne K. Jacobs, J. Brian Houston explained exactly when and why mental health evaluations like surveillance, triage, needs assessment, screening, clinical evaluation of the child, and program evaluations should be performed in their research paper, “Children and disasters: A framework for mental health assessment”, published on Journal of Emergency Management in September 2012.

Children might not even realize how it is impacting them let alone knowing how to protect them. That is why an evidence based framework was much needed in order to asses at the community and individual level, evaluate interventions and provide services. It is a critical task to assess the mental needs, specially for war children, selecting the appropriate measurements.

How to Assess the Mental Health of War Children?

The assessments depends on a few things like-

 1) the developmental level of the child

2) timing in relation to the event

3) contact person and

4) community resource capacity

Disaster assessments, unlike standard mental health assessments in a clinical context, rely on shorter measurements to acquire information on community needs and trauma-related behaviors. Surveillance, triage, needs assessment, screening, clinical evaluation, and program evaluation are 4 examples of these evaluations.

War children mental health asessment

Figure depicts a timeframe for undertaking these assessments, with surveillance in the background, triage generally  in the disaster’s impact phase, needs assessments are conducted in the immediate aftermath of the disaster or afterward, screenings used in the response phase as the community slowly starts the recovery phase. From reaction through recovery, clinical examinations are required for children who have experienced prolonged trouble functioning. Following that, program evaluation is used to track the effects of treatments and services as they are implemented throughout time.

Disasters surely hamper the development of children. To accurately assess the effects of disaster on youth, it is essential to directly question children as well as noting the observations from their caregivers. Parents or caregivers may be in trauma themselves or simply oblivious what effects to look for in children. On such cases, clinicians can determine what the child is struggling with after a traumatic event. Like previously stated, Children may not share their stress with parents or caregivers for further upsetting their parents.

Read: The Mental Crisis of the Frontline Workers

Notice: World Federation For Mental Health (WFMH) calls for Nomination of 2021- 2023 Board of Directors


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