Parents urged to hold children close as figures show childhood trauma leads to adult mental health issues
A leading mental health advocate has urged parents to provide a safe environment for their children, from birth, to prevent later life impacts, after new figures were released showing up to 88 per cent of adult survivors of childhood trauma develop mental health problems.
The figures, released by the Blue Knot Foundation for Blue Knot Day on Monday, show some 88 per cent of 3500 callers to the services' helpline over an eight-month period who faced childhood trauma went on to have at least one mental health impact later in life, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and dissociation.
Callers also reported impacts on relationships as the second most common impact, with 58 per cent of callers revealing substantial negative impacts to their relationships, from their "family of origin" to current partners, extended family, their children and friendships.
Foundation president, Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, said the figures showed the "devastating impacts of childhood trauma, even in adults".
"With one in four Australian adults affected by childhood trauma, the human cost is significant for a massive number of Australians," she said.
Canberra mental health advocate and current deputy New South Wales mental health commissioner Bradley Foxlewin said the figures were in line with his years of experience helping people recover and deal with their childhood trauma.
A survivor of abuse himself, Mr Foxlewin said some research had already shown even the "earliest attachment trauma" could have an impact life in life — from diagnosed mental health illnesses to "not having the capacity to regulate their own experience".
While all times of a child's life were important to help ensure they develop appropriately, Mr Foxlewin said "from conception to 18 months old" was a critical period when extra attention should be paid to the child.
"There's a huge array of experiences that can set children up for being disregulated. It can range from intentional abuse to neglect, through to children just experiencing a series of unfortunate events at a critical time in their development," he said.
"We all need to ensure the child isn't in a situation where it doesn't get the best attention that it needs, particularly in those early days when children need that security and safety."
Mr Foxlewin said the key to helping prevent childhood trauma, and ensuring children had the skills to face trauma in the future, was ensuring they had "consistency, predictability and a real sense of held-ness" in their lives.
"They need to feel that they are held in a place they belong, and that they are precious. That doesn't mean you don't have containers around appropriate behaviours and some discipline, but not physical discipline, but it starts with children feeling precious and knowing that they are part of something that's valuable and they are valuable to it."
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