Dr. Josephine Omondi, Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist, Kenyatta National Hospital. PHOTO/JOY WANJA
By JOY WANJA
Bahati called out to his mother who was in the kitchen preparing that evening’s meal. Bahati is only seven years old. He had been playing in their sitting room as the images of a car on fire aired on television. It was in the background until the screams of a lady being rescued attracted this young mind to the screen.
The ambulance sirens grew closer and louder.
Mummy! Mummy! Come and see!
He beckoned further! His mother came and assured him that they would all be rescued then she returned to the kitchen.
That evening, Bahati couldn’t sleep. The images from the burning cars replayed in his mind. The screams from the lady sounded like they had come from under his bed. Bahati’s sisters and his parents stayed awake and assured him that the event had been contained and everyone rescued. But Bahati held onto his mother’s shirt all evening and in the morning he refused to attend school.
Child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Josephine Omondi explains that children are not immune to traumatic events; even when they are exposed to them by proxy, like Bahati had.
Dr Omondi defines mental trauma as the experience of an event by a child that is emotionally painful or distressful resulting in lasting mental and physical effects. Whereas most of the awareness on trauma has centered on adults, Dr Omondi notes that children also get traumatised affecting their daily lives.
“The exposure to trauma on children is often unappreciated and in most cases is untreated. The child suffers silently hence can affect the child’s social interactions,” Dr Omondi added.
“Adults can help kids recover from traumatic experiences by understanding the effects of a child who has been exposed to trauma,” Dr Omondi said. She further noted that psychological trauma causes horror, terror, or helplessness in children.
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