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Counseling Helps Kids Cope With Violence

School-Based Program Helps Children Suffering From Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
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While community violence can occur anywhere, the prevalence of such violence in America's poor, urban communities is startling. According to statistics from the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence:

  • Nine out of 10 high school kids surveyed in an urban community in Miami reported having witnessed community violence, and 44% said they had been victims of violent crime.
  • 88% of children living in an urban neighborhood in Richmond, Va., reported having heard gunfire near their home, and 25% reported witnessing someone being killed.
  • 39% of middle school kids living in a poor, urban neighborhood in New Haven, Conn., witnessed someone being shot during the preceding year.

"Living in certain communities in America has been compared to living in a war zone, and I don't think that is much of an exaggeration," clinical psychologist Albert D. Farrell, PhD, tells WebMD.

A professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, Farrell has studied the impact of exposure to violence on high-risk children and adolescents for years. He says it is clear that kids who witness or are victims of violent events are more likely to exhibit violent or aggressive behaviors themselves. They are also more likely to abuse drugs and act out in other ways.

Steven Berkowitz, MD, of the Yale Child Study Center, agrees that intervention is key to helping children cope.

"One of the clearest pathways to delinquency and criminal behavior is early chronic exposure to violence and victimization," he tells WebMD. "One way of dealing with feeling helpless is to become aggressive. Intervention helps children gain some sense of control and perspective on the violence in their lives."

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