Trauma exposure is common in children and adolescents. Parents and other key adults, such as teachers, are necessary to facilitate help-seeking behavior, which involves recognizing trauma and adverse reactions and awareness of accessing treatments. Where screening measures in schools are used to detect post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the attitudes of parents and teachers towards screening need to be considered.
To examine whether parents and teachers can accurately detect trauma events, symptoms and effective treatments. In addition, to assess how supportive parents and teachers are towards PTSD screening in schools.
A total of 439 parents and 279 teachers completed online questionnaires assessing PTSD knowledge across three domains: traumatic events, PTSD symptoms and evidence-based treatments. Responses of acceptability of using PTSD screening tools in schools were elicited.
Teachers and parents were accurate in recognizing trauma events and PTSD symptoms. However, understanding was inclusive, with events not considered traumatic and non-PTSD diagnostic criteria being endorsed. Trauma-Focussed Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy was recognized as an effective treatment for PTSD, but Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing was not. Treatments not recommended by health guidelines were frequently endorsed. The majority of participants were supportive of PTSD screening in schools, but a minority were not.
Parents and teachers are able to recognize trauma events and symptoms of PTSD, although this tends to be overly inclusive. Schools could be targeted to promote understanding trauma among parents and teachers. Agreement with screening is encouraging and further research is warranted to understand barriers and facilitators.