Since the beginning of the last century, we have known from published research that a significant number of children undergoing surgery suffer from anxiety. This in itself may not surprise anyone. What is unquestionably remarkable though, is that this same research clearly illustrates that anxiety can occur in as many as 90% of children at the time of induction of anaesthesia and that this anxiety is directly associated with signs of emotional trauma in up to 60% of children in the first three weeks following surgery. In addition, between 4 and 12% of children continue to exhibit signs of trauma and suffer from dysfunctional behaviour as a result, for more than a year.
Considering the number of children affected and the consequences, it is surprising that despite this data being openly available, until relatively recently very few clinicians appeared to know about any of this. As a result, they were mistakenly fixed in the belief that the distress caused by medical interventions and hospital admission was quickly forgotten, did little real harm and that there was no way to reduce the emotional trauma anyway.
In many countries around the world, pioneering individuals have been pushing this as a major concern for some time and completing some incredible work that has extended our knowledge within this field of interest. Here in the UK, an awareness has been growing over the last 10 years and the medical establishments are on the brink of braiding training in the management of anxious children into the national syllabus. This is with a view to this skillset becoming a core competency for all practitioners caring for children. This is an exciting time and it will be both a fascinating and rewarding journey.
With this journey about to begin, it is my belief that the time is right for the broader public to appreciate and understand this issue. The reason for this is simple. The effectiveness of any initiative will hinge on a single fundamental aim, which is for the children affected by anxiety to develop truly independent coping strategies. This means strategies that they themselves have developed and learnt to deploy rather than ones dependent on presence of any other individual or individuals. For any child to develop such strategies, they will undoubtably require ongoing support from the extended family unit. It may well be that patterns of behaviour within the family may also need to evolve for this to happen.
The purpose of this website is to support this initiative by disseminating knowledge, encouraging discussion, and to offer support for child, parent and medic alike whilst we negotiate the challenges of the journey ahead.
Rich Martin 23rd January 2019