New SAMHSA study finds trauma-informed care improves behavioral and emotional health of children

According to data released today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), children and youth affected by traumatic events improve their functioning in community-based “system of care” programs. Traumatic events can include witnessing or experiencing physical or sexual abuse; violence in families and communities; natural disasters; wartime events and terrorism; accidental or violent death of a loved one; and a life-threatening injury or illness.

The report, Helping Children and Youth Who Have Experienced Traumatic Events, shows that after 12 months of accessing services within a community-based system of care, 44 percent of children and youth improved their school attendance, 41 percent improved their grades, and youth suicide attempts fell by 64 percent. In addition, the number of youth reporting arrests in the past 6 months fell by 36 percent. A “system of care” is the organizational philosophy and framework designed to create a network of effective community-based services and supports to improve the lives of children and youth with or at risk of serious mental health conditions and their families.
Similarly the report shows that children and youth receiving trauma specific services delivered through SAMHSA funded programs experienced a 20 percent drop in the number experiencing problems at school, a 59 percent drop in the number with problems with suicidality, and a 57 percent drop in number of children engaging in delinquent behavior after 6 months of service. Overall, youth served by this specialized approach showed significant reductions in symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“More than a quarter of the children in the United States will be exposed to a traumatic event before turning 4 years old,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “Severe trauma can alter brain activity patterns in children that can lead to mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. It is critically important that they get the specialized services and supports that work to build resilience.”
The report was released today, National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day (Awareness Day), SAMHSA’s annual celebration of the importance of caring for every child’s mental health, and as part of the agency’s observance of Mental Health Month. Awareness Day is part of SAMHSA’s strategic initiative on public awareness and support, and is a collaboration of more than 100 national organizations and Federal agencies and programs working to provide greater access to community-based mental health services and supports for children and youth with serious mental health conditions and their families. Across the country, more than 1,000 communities celebrated this annual observance with local events; social media campaigns; and dance, music, and visual activities with children to raise awareness about the importance of children’s mental health.
To download Helping Children and Youth Who Have Experienced Traumatic Events and view the full list of field references, go to  or visit

SAMHSA is a public health agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

Media Contact: SAMHSA Press Office
Telephone: 240-276-2130