bathuthuzele youth stress clinic

Youth in the Western Cape are exposed to a high level of violence and trauma. This can occur in their neighbourhoods, in their homes and in their schools. Many teenagers have been victims of violence or extreme traumas, while many more have seen or witnessed these events.

Traumatic experiences can have a devastating impact on young people, creating feelings of fear, sadness and helplessness. This can affect their performance at school, and their relationships with family and friends. If treatment is not provided, these difficulties can continue into adulthood.

Who are we?
The Bathuthuzele Youth Stress Clinic is a specialized clinic that provides services to youth affected by violence and extreme trauma.

The clinic is a joint initiative of the Medical Research Council's Anxiety and Stress Disorders Unit, the Department of Psychology at the University of Western Cape, and the Departments of Psychiatry at Stellenbosch University and University of Cape town.

The clinic is staffed by qualified psychologists and psychiatrists.

What are our aims?

  • To provide a free and accessible community service for youth who have experienced a trauma
  • To provide professional evaluation and treatment
  • To conduct research in order to increase our knowledge of the effects of trauma on South African youth
  • To educate parents, teachers and youth about the effects of violence and trauma, how to recognise the signs of trauma, and where to get help

Who do we help?
We see children aged 12 – 18 years who have experienced or witnessed any type of violence or extreme trauma.

What services do we provide?

1. Screening and assessments
2. Psychotherapy
3. Medication

Types of extreme traumas that affect children and teenagers
Extreme trauma refers to an incident in which a person's life or physical safety is threatened. Examples include:

  • Domestic violence – sexual abuse or physical abuse in the home
  • Gang violence (e.g. beatings, shootings)
  • Rape and sexual abuse by other teenagers or by adults
  • School violence
  • Car accidents
  • Criminal violence (e.g. armed robberies)
  • Bombings
  • Natural disasters (e.g. floods, fires)

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is the name of a condition that is commonly found in people who have been a victim of, or a witness to, an extreme trauma.

Youth with PTSD may experience the following

  • Feeling as if the event is happening again, through repeated thoughts, images, dreams or flashbacks of the event
  • Avoidance of people, places, things and conversations that remind them of the event
  • Feeling physically restless and agitated so that they can't sleep properly, can't concentrate, feel irritable, and are always on the alert

PTSD can often be successfully treated with psychotherapy and/or medication.

How to recognise signs of PTSD in children and teenagers

  • Re-playing the traumatic event over and over again in their play activities
  • Excessive risk-taking and reckless or self-destructive behaviour
  • Avoidance of places, people, things or conversations related to the trauma
  • Easily startled / frightened by loud noises and sudden movements
  • Feeling / acting on-guard all the time
  • Lack of interest in usual activities
  • Irritability, outbursts of anger or increase in aggressive behaviour
  • Poor concentration
  • Noticeably more anxious and fearful than before
  • Childlike behaviour / excessive clinging
  • Depressed mood
  • Frequent physical illnesses
  • Feeling indifferent to their own or other people's suffering because they feel emotionally numb and cut off from others

How to contact us
Tel. 021 938-9229 or 021 938-9162
MRC Unit on Anxiety & Stress Disorders
Department of Psychiatry, University of Stellenbosch
P O Box 19063 Tygerberg 7505

 

Last updated:
24-Nov-2008

Administrator: Mental Health Information Centre of South Africa
E-mail: mhic@sun.ac.za

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