A closer look at treating PTSD in kids

CREATED Jul 9, 2014

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MILWAUKEE - Makayla, Tatianna, and Amari are three young girls who know about gun violence all too well. Back in June they were caught in the crossfire while inside a Milwaukee grocery store.

Amari says, "They made my life scary."

While the girls' physical injuries are gone, their emotional recovery is just beginning.

TODAY'S TMJ4's Jermont Terry asks Tatianna, "Who have you talked to about it?" She replies, "Nobody."

Chad Wetterneck is a psychologist at the PTSD Treatment Center at Rogers Memorial Hospital. He says trauma like that robbery could effect a child just as much as an adult, and there are warning signs for parents to look out for. "They might become more withdrawn, some things that are more obvious are that they avoid any situations that's associated with where the danger occurred or where they thought the danger occurred."

Dr. Wetterneck says a child can possibly overcome PTSD if it's caught early, but the scope of the condition is often handled better by adults.

"By that time, you have developed a sense of the world and hopefully it's a balance sense of the world that there are happy things and sad things, and a mix of pleasure and pain," he explains.

While doctors have a good grasp on how to treat PTSD in adults, they're still studying the best way to help children like Makayla, Tatianna, and Amari.

"Well you can use some of the same methods, there are some more recent studies that show that different exposure based procedures could be helpful, and there's a wide range of techniques that are being tested now," Wetterneck says.

There is some help for kids. The Wraparound Milwaukee program helps children who witness gun violence.