Support network for traumatised children helps over 2,300 in 3 years

(From left) Ms Woon Saet Nyoon, Chief Executive, Temasek Foundation Cares; Professor Alex Sia, CEO, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital; President Halimah Yacob; Mr Richard Magnus, Chairman, Temasek Foundation Cares; and Ms Lynn Soh, Chairman, Child Trauma Conference 2019 Organising Committee, at the Child Trauma Conference on April 4. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - A support network to help children affected by various forms of trauma has helped more than 2,300 children, along with their parents, since it was set up three years ago.

The Stay Prepared - Trauma Network for Children offers therapy and psychological support and is the first network of its kind here.

Its programmes have also trained over 1,000 therapists, school counsellors and social workers to provide appropriate intervention for these children.

The figures were announced at the Child Trauma Conference on Thursday (April 4), which is being organised by KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) and philanthropic organisation Temasek Foundation Cares, which helped to develop the network.

One key outcome of the network is training school and community therapists in a structured support therapy already used in hospitals here.

Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT) is an evidence-based intervention model for children experiencing post-trauma psycho-emotional difficulties.

It provides intensive structured trauma intervention to children and young people who, after more than one month since a traumatic experience, are still experiencing levels of distress that affect their daily functioning.

Of the 1,672 children and parents who have undergone the therapy in Singapore, significant improvements were achieved in the children's trauma, anxiety and mood symptoms.

A total of 168 therapists in the community have also been trained and certified in TF-CBT.

Temasek Foundation Cares is providing funding of $3.5 million over three and a half years for the network.

"Research suggests that positive relational experiences and coping strategies can help support those experiencing post-trauma psycho-emotional difficulties," said Associate Professor Ng Kee Chong, chairman of KKH's Medical Board.

"It has also shown that early intervention and having a trauma-informed care system are important in trauma recovery."

At KKH, a Psychosocial Trauma Support Service was started in 2007, which has helped children and their caregivers prevent and reduce crisis or trauma-related symptoms.

The most common cases include emotional and physical abuse, as well as accidental injuries like burns, accidents and falls, according to Ms Lim Xin Yi, a senior principal psychologist who heads the service.

The conference brings together around 300 local and international trauma experts to share their experiences and best practices in child mental health and welfare.

It is held at Academia at the Singapore General Hospital and ends on Friday.

President Halimah Yacob was the guest of honour at the opening ceremony on Thursday.

As part of the network, 40,000 people have participated in outreach efforts to create awareness of trauma in young children.

Temasek Foundation Cares is planning to start a new programme within the next two years, to teach even more people how to identify children with trauma and equip them with early intervention skills in trauma counselling.

The organisation aims to train people including parents, early childhood educators, as well as teachers and leaders in religious groups.

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