Salvadoran youth have an elevated risk of trauma exposure and related mental health problems. However, investigations of childhood trauma exposure and mental health sequelae in El Salvador are limited. The present study aimed to (a) explore the prevalence of exposure to potentially traumatic events and symptoms of posttraumatic stress, anxiety, and depression and (b) evaluate the associations between specific trauma types and emotional functioning among Salvadoran youth. A total of 1,296 youth aged 8–21 years from seven public schools completed self-report measures of trauma exposure, posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), anxiety, and depression. Participants reported high levels of trauma exposure, endorsing an average of 3.62 (SD = 2.32) trauma types. In total, 34.5% of participants reported clinically elevated PTSS; fewer youths reported elevated depressive (8.7%) and anxiety symptoms (8.6%). Although boys reported exposure to more trauma types than girls, d = 0.22, girls were more likely to endorse elevated PTSS, V = .11; anxiety, V = .06; and depression, V = .10. Adolescents reported exposure to more trauma types than younger children, d = 0.23, and were more likely to endorse elevated PTSS, V = .07; anxiety, V = .13; and depression, V = .16. Undergoing a frightening medical procedure, OR = 2.30; female sex, OR = 1.92; witnessing domestic violence, OR = 1.70; and experiencing war between gangs, OR = 1.61, were strong predictors of elevated PTSS. This broad, school-based screening was a critical step toward better understanding the rate of trauma exposure and trauma-related symptoms among Salvadoran youth.
Stewart, R. W., Villalobos, B. T., Dueweke, A. R., Rodriguez, J. H., Nicasio, A. V., Alto, M., & Orengo-Aguayo, R. (2021). A Pilot Trial of Universal School-Based Mental Health Screening in El Salvador: Traumatic Stress in an Underresourced School Environment. Journal of traumatic stress, 34(5), 955–966. https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22716
Journal of traumatic stress