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Helping Students Exposed to Violence

School-based program teaches coping skills to deal with anxiety, sadness

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WEDNESDAY, Aug. 6, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Students who suffer behavioral and emotional problems caused by exposure to multiple acts of violence can be helped by a simple school-based program.

That's what a RAND study in the Aug. 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found.

The study included 126 sixth graders in a Los Angeles school district who had witnessed or experienced numerous cases of violence. The students reported being victims of 2.8 violent events and witnessing 5.9 violent events on average.

Those included such things as witnessing a serious physical fight or being attacked by someone with a knife or gun.

The students were divided into two groups: a study group that took part in the Cognitive Behavioral Intervention in Schools program and a control group that received no therapy.

The program included 10 group sessions meant to teach the students coping skills to help reduce their feelings of anxiety and sadness. The sessions were led by trained school social workers.

The students were taught how to deal with negative thoughts, how to solve real-life problems, how to approach anxiety-provoking situations, and how to cope with a violent event through talking, drawing pictures and writing.

The program also seeks to build peer support within the group and to encourage children to talk with their parents about their problems related to their exposure to violence.

After three months, 86 percent of the students in the study group had fewer symptoms of violence-related distress; 67 percent had fewer symptoms of depression than would have been expected without intervention.

More than 75 percent of the parents reported their child was functioning better than would have been expected without the intervention, the study says.

Six months after taking part in the program, the students still had fewer symptoms of violence-related distress and depression and their parents continued to report improved psychosocial functioning in their children.

Interestingly, teachers reported no significant classroom improvement for the students who took part in the program.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about helping traumatized children.

SOURCE: RAND Corp., news release, Aug. 5, 2003
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