Center for Injury Research and Prevention

Teen Health Week: Violence and Teen Mental Health

April 11, 2019

Last week, CIRP proudly joined our CHOP colleagues to participate in Teen Health Week, a now global initiative that began in Pennsylvania to raise awareness of the unique health considerations for teens. Our Violence Intervention Program (VIP) works with CHOP patients, including many teens, who have been victims of peer assault. VIP's clients and their families are provided with trauma-informed case management, mental health services, and navigation to needed resources.

In recognition of Teen Health Week, VIP Supervisor Laura Vega, DSW, LCSW and Arturo Zinny, LPC, program director at Drexel University's Healing Hurt People, were featured in a PolicyLab blog post to share their perspectives on how community violence impacts adolescent mental health by answering the following questions:

  1. From your perspective, what is the number one behavioral health issue facing adolescents in Philadelphia?
  2. How are you prioritizing this issue in the work that you do?
  3. What will it take to move the bar in this area?

A portion of the blog post that includes answers to these questions is included below; click here to access the full post on PolicyLab's website.

1. Exposure to trauma is a leading issue among adolescents living in Philadelphia. The impact of poverty, racism and community violence all contribute to this epidemic and increase the risk for negative psychosocial outcomes. The youth we see experience high rates of post-traumatic stress symptoms and many of our youth present with nightmares, trouble sleeping, lack of concentration and hypervigilance, which deeply affects their safety, education and overall health. 

2. Trauma is prioritized in everything we do. Our work focuses specifically on violence intervention programming that is intended to wrap services around the whole family recognizing that siblings and caregivers are also impacted by trauma. This addresses imminent safety concerns to reduce retaliation and re-injury while helping families navigate systems of care and facilitate healing.

3. We are both strong believers that change is possible, but it will take a major paradigm shift in policies that continue to create disparities between those of privilege and those without. From what we learned from the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, we should be targeting funding toward intervening as early as possible in a child’s life to prevent the impact of early trauma. We should invest in creating socially just systems that understand the impact of trauma and address the structural barriers that continue to oppress children and families. We also need to fund research that promotes the evidence base for effective, culturally competent trauma treatments for youth and families experiencing complex trauma.