Works of Art Depict Fear and Hope of Students Reaching Out From Trauma of Gang Violence

Los Angeles - Jan. 29, 2007 – As government agencies, elected officials, school districts and community leaders grapple with the growing threat of gang violence, students who have been traumatized are fighting to regain their emotional balance through artwork and an intervention program affiliated with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry.

Several pictures created by children traumatized by violence are available for viewing at Cedars- Sinai on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. Suzanne Silverstein, a registered art therapist and the supervisor of the Department of Psychiatry’s Family and Child Program, will be on hand to discuss the impact of violence on children’s learning and the way art therapy helps those who have been affected emotionally.

Art therapy is one element of the “Share and Care Program” that serves 11 Los Angeles Unified Schools. Group discussion is also used to address emotional anxieties. The program’s main goal is to give children a place to go to express their fears and anxieties, freeing them to learn in the classroom.

“Share and Care” is a service of the Psychological Trauma Center, a non-profit organization that meets mental health needs of traumatized elementary school students in disadvantaged areas. Counselor-therapists conduct more than 50 group meetings each week, seeing about 500 students.

“Psychological trauma of any kind affects a child’s ability to concentrate and learn,” said Silverstein, president and co-founder of the Psychological Trauma Center. “By helping children begin to cope with the violence, fear and sadness that are all too prevalent in their homes and neighborhoods, we hope to improve their quality of life and help them achieve their highest learning potential. We also hope to help break the cycle of violence as students learn healthy forms of expression and avoid striking back with more acts of violence.”

Established in Los Angeles in 1981, the Psychological Trauma Center was the nation’s first to tailor crisis intervention and mental health services to children who are direct or indirect victims of such traumatic events as natural disasters, car accidents, fires and neighborhood and school violence. Cedars-Sinai provides professional, advisory, operational and limited financial support to the center.

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