Child abuse, inclusive of all its forms is recognized globally, as a serious concern involving social, educational and legal responsibility.
Children with high levels of exposure to adversity are more than four times as likely to develop a mental disorder by the time they reach adulthood than children who have not experienced adversity- according to a research conducted by the American Psychological Association. Maltreatment and abuse during infancy and early childhood years affect the individual’s brain development in a negative manner. Fear, isolation and lack of trust, aggression and helplessness are commonly associated aspects which can translate more complexities like low self esteem, and difficulty in social adjustments. Specific mental health disorders like depression, substance abuse, Post Traumatic stress Disorder (PTSD) are well proven to be associated with harsh treatment in childhood and neglect in many cases.
A study conducted by Laurel J.Kiser, Carla Smith Stover, and a few others. It was found out that for sexual trauma, victimization by a non-caregiver was associated with higher posttraumatic stress, internalizing and externalizing behavior problems, depression, and dissociation compared to youth victimized by a caregiver. For physical trauma, victimization by a non-caregiver was also associated with higher posttraumatic symptoms and internalizing behavior problems.
In March 2020, a research article published by Rakesh Pandey, Meenakshi Shukla, and few others states that 83.36% of the sample reported childhood abuse or neglect. Of the most common maltreatment types, physical abuse was present for 72.73% emotional abuse for 47.7% and general neglect for 17.4% . All these maltreatment types were associated with poor mental health, with emotional abuse showing the strongest and wide-ranging impact, for which the samples were about 132 adolescents with a history of child work.
The strong relation between child abuse and mental health issues is something that we all must be more aware about. Timely and proper education about the same is a personal start to prevent such instances. Improvised legal rights and actions, increase in awareness by teachers in school, mental health organizations etc will bring about positive changes in society.
A few recommendations by the UN are listed as follows:
More defined policies and programmes have the potential to improve youths’ access to a full range of services. This includes services for youth with mental-health conditions, as well as those who struggle with learning disabilities, which often occur in tandem with mental-health conditions.
Efforts are needed to overcome stigma regarding mental-health conditions in youth across their life course. Increased education and awareness of mental-health conditions is likely to reduce the perceived stigma associated with seeking treatment and disclosing symptoms to professionals and other adults in positions to help. Social-marketing campaigns and national programmatic efforts aimed at raising social awareness of the issues of mental health are a critical next step in the effort to reduce the stigma among young people with mental-health conditions.
Improved surveillance and programme monitoring and evaluation will aid in the identification of both the risks and protective factors to be targeted through preventive interventions. It is critical that data be collected regularly regarding a broad range of risk and protective factors and mental-health outcomes.