Opening Pandora’s Box: The Importance of Trauma Identification and Intervention in Hospitalized and Incarcerated Adolescent Populations
Jennifer F. Havens, Julian Ford, Damion Grasso and Mollie Marr
Affiliation: Bellevue Hospital Center, 462 First Avenue, Room 21S25, New York, NY 10016, USA.
Traumatic experience and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is highly prevalent among adolescents
hospitalized in psychiatric facilities and also among those who are incarcerated. However, it is often not detected in the
course of routine evaluations, even those done by mental health professionals. Lack of recognition of trauma exposure and
PTSD in hospitalized or incarcerated adolescents has serious implications. The severe behavior problems that result in
hospitalizations or incarceration may actually be the result of emotional dysregulation, which is one of the core PTSD
problems. This article describes strategies for integrating and evaluating systematic screening, assessment and
developmentally appropriate interventions in a public hospital and juvenile justice settings. While research on these
interventions is ongoing, preliminary findings have been positive. It is essential that the important role that trauma plays
in severe psychopathology be recognized and effectively addressed if we are to help these young people change their
trajectory from one of continued victimization to one of effective self-regulation.
Keywords: Traumatic stress, adolescents, inpatients, incarcerated adolescents, screening, posttraumatic stress disorder
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