Friday, December 11, 1998 Published at 00:32 GMT
Child accident victims suffer trauma
Many child accident victims may suffer psychological trauma
Up to 9,000 children a year who are involved in road traffic accidents may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to new research.
The researchers interviewed 119 children who had been admitted to the hospital's accident and emergency unit between march 1996 and February 1997.
They found that 34% were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder up to six weeks after the accident, compared with just 3% in a control group of children who had sports injuries.
The researchers assessed a range of emotional changes, including severe anxiety, sleeping and eating disturbance, depression, anger and panic.
Girls were much more likely to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder than boys, with 55% having psychological problems, compared to 19% of boys.
The researchers say the trauma was not related to the type of accident or its gravity. Even those who had minor accidents were found to suffer from the disorder.
However, children who had experienced a previous trauma or who saw their accident as life-threatening were more likely to have psychological problems.
Over 70,000 children and teenagers a year are involved in road traffic accidents. Some die and many suffer serious injuries.
The researchers believe their figures are likely to reflect general trends, meaning up to 9,000 children may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
They said it had been known for a long time that adults who had accidents suffered the disorder, but it was only recently that children were thought to be affected in the same way.
They say relatively few children get any counselling. Most support is reserved for one-off disasters and children who are involved in compensation cases.
None of the children involved in the study had received any counselling.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, the researchers said: "Whatever the reason, the psychological needs of most children involved in road traffic accidents remain largely unrecognised."
The Child Accident Prevention Trust, which has done its own report on the emotional needs of accident victims and child witnesses to accidents, agreed with the research findings.
It has recently issued literature for child care professionals and families to raise awareness of the problems.
They include best practice guidelines for professionals, including GPs, accident and emergency teams, teachers and community workers and leaflets for children, teenagers and parents on how to spot the symptoms of emotional disorder, such as bedwetting.
"There is very little available in the way of support," said a spokeswoman.