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New resources aid understanding of PTSD in children and young people

New powerful and eye-catching animations, designed with young people for young people, will explain the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), along with a series of seven training videos for mental health professionals.

The free childhood trauma and PTSD resources are launched today by the UK Trauma Council (UKTC), which is a project of the Anna Freud Centre, alongside University College London (UCL). They consist of four animated videos and a set of seven training videos for mental health professionals on delivering the best-evidenced treatment for childhood PTSD. The resources aim to improve understanding of PTSD for young people, parents, carers and professionals.

Informed by the latest research on childhood trauma and PTSD, the animations show what PTSD looks like, and provide useful advice for young people on how to cope with distressing memories, the science around best treatments, and address worries they might have about getting support.

The professional training videos focus on the delivery of cognitive therapy for PTSD to children and young people. Cognitive therapy for PTSD is a type of trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which is the best-evidenced mental health intervention for young people with PTSD, including for those who have experienced complex or developmental traumas.

The UK Trauma Council is the first UK-wide group bringing together expertise in research, practice, policy and lived experience in childhood trauma.

Dr Rachel Hiller, from the UK Trauma Council and Associate Professor in Child Mental Health at UCL, said: “At least one-third of children in the UK experience trauma before their 18th birthday[1]. In some groups - including children with experience of being in the care system, or asylum seekers and refugees - these levels are even higher.

“Sometimes, these experiences can lead to mental health difficulties, such as PTSD. PTSD can be very hard to live with and can impact all aspects of a young person’s life, including their relationships and schooling. But with the right support, children and young people can overcome PTSD and move beyond the trauma. 

“We are pleased to launch these resources, free for all those who need them, which will help mental health professionals to supplement their own expertise in treating PTSD and give young people who have experienced trauma the vital message that they are not alone.”

The animations explain – through accessible and relatable scenarios - how it can be normal for young people to feel overwhelmed in the weeks following experiences in which they feel very frightened for their safety or the safety of someone else. But if these feelings continue and make life very hard, it might be PTSD.

They go on to outline the steps that young people can take to cope with very difficult memories of traumatic experiences, and how to reach out for professional support and what to expect from trauma-focused CBT.

The seven videos for mental health professionals are designed to supplement professional training and expertise in delivering cognitive therapy for PTSD. They provide additional support around key aspects of the intervention, such as developing a timeline, doing reliving work, building a narrative, and updating trauma memories.

This work has been funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs), with contributions from ARC West, ARC South West Peninsula (PenARC), ARC North East & North Cumbria (ARC NENC), and ARC North Thames.

All the resources are free to access from the UK Trauma Council website, where you can also find out more about its work and its evidence-based resources to improve professionals and carers’ understanding of the nature and impact of trauma.


[1] Lewis, S. J., Arseneault, L., Caspi, A., Fisher, H. L., Matthews, T., Moffitt, T. E., ... & Danese, A. (2019). The epidemiology of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder in a representative cohort of young people in England and Wales. The Lancet Psychiatry, 6(3), 247-256.