Tag Archives: Children & Families in Life After Trauma

Trauma Informed Schools… “It’s Okay to not be Okay…” Newport High School Cubs Lead…

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Trauma Informed Oregon  click here for more… Quoting…

“Trauma Informed Oregon is a statewide collaborative aimed at preventing and ameliorating the impact of adverse experiences on children, adults and families. We work in partnership to promote and sustain trauma informed policies and practices across physical, mental, and behavioral health systems and to disseminate promising strategies to support wellness and resilience.”

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While attending the Lincoln County Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC) meeting last week, I could not have been more pleased to receive a copy of the Newport HS Harbor Light Newsletter this last week, entitled “Depression, Anxiety and Mental Illness!” It was equally gratifying and encouraging to see Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) model on the agenda.

Following are quotes from Harbor Light by teachers and students…  The newsletter is not yet accessible on a website,  so it is my goal to provide a summary, including relevant reference links mentioned in the newsletter.  This is an outstanding read and highly recommended!

Samantha Murphy, Advisor Intro…

“The elusive nature of anxiety and depression makes them easy conditions to question and difficult conditions to understand unless you’ve experienced them.  They do exist, however. They are real and they are often debilitating.”

Ruby Quintero, Editor Intro…

“All levels of anxiety and depression are very real emotions that all people should be aware of as well as inherit a particular level of sensitivity to.”

Brooke Foiles,”The Weight of Depression.”

“I knew if I went to the doctor I would have to step on the one thing that had been drowning me in depression for so many months…a scale.”

Ruby Quintero, “Less than Good Enough.”

“That extra skin on your stomach, your neck, your legs, your arms, it’s perfect.  You are the best you can be and that’s all that matters.  Someone is going to come along and appreciate you for who you are and give you the world.”

Hallie Ezzell, “Statistics.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health Illness (NAMI): click here for more…

  • “One in five children ages 13-18 have or will have a serious mental illness.”
  • “50 percent of all lifetime cases of mental illnesses begin by the young age of 14.”
  • “About 50 percent of students age 14 and older who struggle with a mental illness drop out of high school.”
  • “70 percent of youth that are in state and local juvenile justice systems struggle with a mental illness.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): click here for more…

Between 2005 and 2011, children ages 3-17 were diagnosed with:

  • “6.8 percent diagnosed with ADHD.”
  • “3.5 percent with behaviorial or conduct issue.”
  • “3 percent with anxiety.”
  • “2.1 percent with depression.”

According to a 2010 report from Youth.gov,  (click here for more)

  • “49.5 percent of US adolescents met the criteria for a mental health condition.”
  • “22.2 percent classified as as exhibiting severe impairment and/or distress.”

Ruben Krueger, “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: A Problem for All.”

“Yet, because depression is not as visible as a bone fracture or heart attack, diagnosis and treatment often remain neglected like a bridge rusting until collapse.”

Anonymous, “Undiagnosed.”

“I guess the message I want to send to parents (teachers, mentors): if your child comes to you for help, please don’t write it off.  Try your best so that they can try theirs.”

Sophie Goodwin-Rice, “Freezing Water.”

Above everything else, though, I know that anxiety is real.  It isn’t a cry for attention, or just a few choppy waves as you’re sailing through life. It is unexplainable, unpredicatable and undeniable.  It’s struggling to keep your head above the freezing water, and always waiting for the wind to calm down again.”

Anonymous, “I Can’t Breath.”

“When I was eight years old, I was raped by my 13-year old brother.  Ever since, I haven’t been able to be in the same room alone with a guy.  Let alone a guy I didn’t know.”

River Rundell, “Codependency: When You’re Not Helping.”

“One sign you may have a codependent relationship in the works is if your parents or other guardians were in a dysfunctional relationship.”

Luke McCarthy, “Coexisting Conditions:  Juggling Burdens.”

“Depression and anxiety, for example, coexist very often.  About 85% of people with major depression also have significant anxiety.”

Macy Dexter, “A Look At Teen Suicide.”

“Depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, as well as other mental illnesses (such as anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and eating disorders) are all found to correlate with suicide across the globe.”

Darius Seah, “Selective Mutism: Living Without a Voice.”

“Selective Mutism, a complex anxiety disorder, typically begins in early childhood.  Symptoms include a consistent failure to speaking in a specific social situations, such as presenting in class or at a family gathering.”

Levi Kay, “Adversity Defines You.”

“In total, I spent twelve months on crutches, during the course of my junior year.  I had two more surgeries and faced constant serious complications in recovery.  As a result of all of this, I became increasingly discouraged and depressed.”

Courtney Saccomano, “When Depression Becomes a Crisis.”

“With depression it can feel like you’re all alone in your head, even though you are surrounded by so many people.”

“People will believe physical pain more than mental.  In sharing their story, the Harbor Light hopes to enlighten those who also struggle with these issues and let them know that getting help is nothing to be ashamed of.”

-Ruby Quintero

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For those who suffer from mental health challenges, especially kids, it is not easy to be comfortable with the idea, “It’s okay to not be okay.”  As a survivor of childhood and young adult traumatic and toxic home circumstances, it took me six decades as an adult to find a path of healing.  What is clear from my own experience and research in these later years is that awareness is the first step in finding a path to recovery and peace of mind. The very best news is to see the policy of “Trauma Informed Schools” become a reality.  It is the conversation that starts with children, parents, teachers, and mentors that will end the stigma and break the cycle of never ending pain caused by the silence and silencing of those who suffer from mental illness.

I strongly recommend that parents, teachers, and mentors everywhere take notice of what Oregon State’s and Lincoln County’s Newport High School is doing with mental health outreach by getting a copy of the April 2016, Harbor Light News Magazine, “It’s Okay to not be Okay…” Awareness and education of mental health circumstances and treatment must start early in the life of a child, at home and in school.  Don’t let your child take the emotional pain and baggage of depression, anxiety, and mental illness into adulthood.

I extend my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the teachers and students of Newport High School and the Harbor Light News Magazine for stepping up! You are all heroes for the cause to end mental health illness stigma!

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma Part 1&2… click the highlighted text for my author page to order books and other stuff…

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Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon, Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

 

 

 

 

 

Trauma Resiliency…Why Are Some People More Resilient to Trauma Than Others?

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Children suffer the most in a home struggling severely with PTSD!

Trauma Resiliency…  May 21, 2015 • By Sunda Friedman TeBockhorst, PhD, Posttraumatic Stress / Trauma Topic Expert Contributor…quote from this article…

Why is that?

The answer to this appears to be largely the same as the answer to so many other quandaries in the field of psychology: the unique combination of genetic constitution and set of life experiences for any given individual. It’s the old “nature vs. nurture” question, and, as is typically the case, the answer seems to be “yes, both influence outcome significantly.”

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Trauma resiliency is an area of research PTSD survivors can appreciate.  Most of us on the severe side of trauma exposure constantly wonder, with some shame and guilt to boot, why some move forward in life after trauma in pretty good shape in terms of emotional baggage.  I fall into the category of long exposure to traumatic experiences as a child and young adult, including living with an entire family suffering from post-trauma stress, especially my post WWII and Korean War father.  Without a strong dose of nurturing from parents and family members, it is near impossible to recover as a child or young adult.  We head into adult life with a heavy emotional load that must be reconciled eventually.  If not, we live a life of constant pain from the symptoms of post-trauma stress.  You see, parents and siblings suffering from PTSD do not have the capacity to nurture.  A toxic home culture is ruled by fear, isolation, denial, stigma, emotional numbness, and self serving behaviors.  Sound painful?  Yes, it is painful indeed.  Can’t we do more?  We must do better…

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2… Click the highlighted text for my author page and to order books, please!

SteveSunriver

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate

Mitigating PTSD Trauma Informed Care…Children & Families in Life After Trauma…

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Trauma Informed Care…

Dear Kindred Spirits:

As an author, blogger, and child advocate, my great passion in life during my retirement years is to help stop the stigma connected with mental health, especially as it relates to the painful tragedy of children growing up in toxic homes where parents suffer with post traumatic stress. Kids inhale the pain of parents and often suffer in silence while exposed to anger, depression, and anxiety over extended periods of time. Children make adjustments and are resilient, but eventually leave home carrying all the emotional baggage with them. Parents, mentors, and teachers can make a huge difference in mitigating the toxic circumstances and longer term emotional damage to children, by becoming sensitive to how youngsters are affected at very early ages. Family members often take on the same symptoms of post traumatic stress if exposed daily to a life of toxic behaviors from adults.

I write in my most recent book, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 2, how children can be saved from the emotional damage of growing up in a toxic home. I also write in my blog, 
www.survivethriveptsd.com about the same topic along with a focus on K-12 education. I served on the board of www.neighborsforkids.org, an after-school program in Depoe Bay, Oregon. I also have had the honor to serve the citizens of Depoe Bay, Oregon as City Councilor.

I advocate for children because my childhood was consumed by the challenges of growing up with parents who suffered severe emotional damage following WWII and Korean War. My awareness of the symptoms of PTSD was very limited for most of my adult life until deciding to confront my own demons when researching and writing my first book Reconciliation: A Son’s Story. We live in in world where generations of wars have torn apart families, leaving them ignorant of the long term damage of PTSD on children who carry forward the emotional pain and symptoms that can linger for a lifetime without treatment. It is never too late to break the cycle of pain and to begin the journey of healing. I waited until age 64, and now live with an high level of awareness, providing a peace of mind never before achieved. But treating the symptoms of PTSD and keeping the pain at a safe distance is a work in progress. For this reason, I continue to push forward making a difference for others by writing and speaking about post trauma stress, including the toxic circumstances and painful outcomes, which can be mitigated with open and honest communications. Stopping the stigma and denial of this painful and life threatening disease is the first step in healing. We now have the awareness and tools to provide “trauma informed care” and delivered at a local level to more quickly recognize mental health symptoms and identify alternative treatment strategies for those who suffer.

Please feel free to contact me with your questions and conversation. You can use my blog, author page, and purchase my books to learn more. My only disclaimer is that my background and experience is that of a trauma survivor who thrives…and not a mental health professional. 

With best wishes for your good health and happiness…

Steve Sparks

SteveSunriver

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate

 

Post-Trauma Stress Comes to Families in More Ways Than One…

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Carlos Gutierrez says the Holy Spirit didn’t take hold of him until five years ago…

Man who lost legs to Mexico’s cartel violence…receives Pope blessings… Click and listen to highly informative and heart wrenching video clip…

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It is often the case and misperception, when speaking to families about post-traumatic stress, that it is only combat veterans who experience the horrors of war that suffer from PTSD.  Not so!  My latest book project, “I Worry About the Kids,” is structured as a workbook for parents, teachers, and mentors to engage in identifying their own needs for PTSD awareness and how to help children, especially early childhood.  So many families reach out and find it difficult to understand this topic, especially how it relates to their own family circumstances.  My new book project provides a lay person or trauma survivor’s view and research that connects to families in a real way.  Click on my website and author page to learn more…

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2… Click on the highlighted text for my author page to order books, etc…

SteveSunriver

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate

Columbine 15 Years Later…Lessons Learned for Parents & Teachers…

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Dylan Klebold, right, and Eric Harris are shown in the Columbine High School cafeteria on the day they killed 12 students and one teacher before killing themselves on April 20, 1999. REUTERS

Columbine 15 Years Later…Newsweek, BY  ON 9/25/14 AT 10:47 AM

“A Pew Research Center report in April 2000 found that shortly after the shootings occurred 85 percent of Americans said it was the parents’ responsibility to prevent potential perpetrators from going on shooting rampages like the one at Columbine. Nine percent thought it was the school’s responsibility.”

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At the center of what we know today after so many horrific and tragic mass shootings in schools over the years, is parents, teachers, and mentors can do more to prevent these terrible events with increased mental health awareness.  The stigma of mental health often keeps parents and loved ones, including teachers, and mentors thinking and saying, “this child is demonstrating typical and normal behaviors.”  Be careful, this rationalization could be dangerous and life threatening!  Good rule is to take a second look and listen, learn much more about mental health 1st aid and trauma informed care.

Susan Klebold plans to confront the “indescribable grief and shame” she has experienced since the shootings in her new book, “Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy,” by Sue Kiebold.

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Sue Kiebold, Author and Trauma Survivor

Following is an excerpt from my new workbook project, “I Worry About the Kids,” designed for parents, teachers, and mentors.

Mental Health and the “Trauma Informed Care” Solution…How does it work?

By Steve Sparks

 

Mental Health: Redirecting from Law Enforcement to Social Programs… A Trauma Informed Response that saves lives…  Quote from this link…

“CAHOOTS was formed in 1989 as a collaborative project of White Bird Clinic and the city of Eugene public safety system to help address the needs of marginalized and alienated populations, specifically the homeless and those suffering from addiction or severe and persistent mental illness. Each team consists of a certified medic and a trained mental health crisis worker.”

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The 90th Annual League of Oregon Cities Conference in Bend, Oregon

I was honored to represent the City of Depoe Bay at the 90th Annual League of Oregon Cities Conference in Bend, Oregon.  This was one of the most robust learning opportunities for me since being elected City Councilor, Depoe Bay, Oregon.  The focus of the conference was to show elected and non-elected officials from city government how to use resources effectively to build a 21st Century sustainable community.  I write about the entire conference in in separate report in a pdf format with rich hyperlink references, which can be requested from www.cityofdepoebay.org or contact info@cityofdepoebay.org.

Much of the discussion during the Mental Health concurrent session referenced in this link, was about the need for “Trauma Informed Care” and different levels of response so that we are NOT sending citizens with mental health challenges directly to jail, and potentially making matters much worse.  We are learning that there are essentially three levels of care evolving, and these include:  1.  Education and Mental Health 1st Aid.  2.  The “Cahoots” model in Eugene, Oregon, to help address the needs of marginalized and alienated populations.  3.  Finally, the 911 Public Safety Emergency response, where it is apparent that lives are in danger.  The three levels work collaboratively and successfully in many communities right now.

Check out this excellent reference link with a powerful video clip…What is “Trauma Informed Care?”

Lara Kain Become a fan Senior director of Transform Schools, LAEP

Trauma Informed Schools–An Essential for Student & Staff Success

“In my experience, plus the 30 years my colleagues have worked in public schools, we have learned that student misbehavior and “acting out” are often indicators of trauma. Poverty, sexual abuse, domestic violence, parental drug use, incarceration, or mental illness are just some of the issues that contribute to traumatic experiences that have a profound impact on a child’s developing brain and body. Through our team’s professional experiences, and research supports our findings, we have found that children living in poor neighborhoods are more likely to suffer traumatic incidents, such as witnessing or being the victims of violence. They also struggle with pernicious daily stressors, including food or housing insecurity, living in overcrowded households with overworked or underemployed, and stressed-out parents.”

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From my own experience as a trauma survivor, non-fiction author and blogger related to post trauma recovery, it is the early life of children during the years up to age 6, when we can have the most impact in helping the fabric of our society heal and mitigate the painful symptoms and damage of the effects of severe trauma, including life long mental health implications.  But we must stop the stigma of mental health…“Mental Health and Stigma” by Graham C. L. Davey, PhD.  The consequences of long term stigma and lack of awareness in our culture is life threatening and terribly dangerous as we have observed too many times over the years, including last week in Roseburg, Oregon when 9 innocent students and educators were killed at Umpqua Community College.  Many others sustained severe injuries, and will no doubt suffer from post traumatic stress and need extended treatment to recover.

As a society we continue to be at risk at 1000’s of soft targets, including schools, movie theaters, open spaces, and in toxic homes, where mentally challenged and potentially dangerous citizens will hurt or kill innocent people.  We can change this pattern going forward and some progress is apparent; but we must be more vigilant, compassionate, and empathetic as a society.  We must talk about mental health in our schools, institutions of learning, and public places.  We must be aggressive in teaching others mental health 1st aid, and trauma informed care.  If we don’t become more serious and have the will to mitigate and treat the symptoms of mental health behaviors early, we stand by and wait for the next mass shooting or tragedy.  Mental Health: “Can’t we do better?”  I know we can!

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1&2.  click the highlighted text for my author page…

SteveSunriver

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate

 

 

 

Post-Trauma Personal Growth…Finding Our Way…

Cheerful man in nature arms outstretched for positive emotion

Cheerful man in nature arms outstretched for positive emotion…

Winning After Hard Times…Post-Trauma Growth… Quote from this website article by Carolyn Gregoire Senior Health & Science Writer, The Huffington Post

Life After Trauma

So how is it that out of suffering we can come to not only return to our baseline state but to deeply improve our lives? And why are some people crushed by trauma, while others thrive? Tedeschi and Calhoun explain that post-traumatic growth, in whatever form it takes, can be “an experience of improvement that is for some persons, deeply profound.”

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My experience with post-trauma personal growth has been “deeply profound” as suggested in the referenced article.  It is possible through awareness, mindfulness, and alternative treatments, one does walk and run on the trail to healing.  But staying on the path to healing is a challenging work in progress, at least for me.  Setbacks are part of the forward progress and lifelong endeavor.  With each day, weeks, months and years since beginning my own recovery, there have been bumps in the road that can be painful, but also fuel the healing process with a lessons learned attitude.  Each of us as trauma survivors find our own unique way or form of healing.  Everyone has different life events and circumstances that give each of us a unique perspective.  But what has been most beneficial to me in healing from experiencing severe trauma, especially as a child and young adult, is to first, forgive yourself; and second, forgive others!  Once this happens you free yourself to find your own special and unique path to lasting peace of mind.  Resilience then becomes a key factor as you thrive in life after trauma.

My books and those of others, including blog reference articles, on the topic of post-traumatic stress (PTS) can be extremely helpful in self-discovery and awareness.  Writing books and this blog represents my own personal treatment strategy to not only understand the roots of PTS symptoms and behaviors, but also provides a healthy perspective, allowing me a comfortable way to heal emotional wounds of the past.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2… Click the highlighted text for my author page and to order e-books and paperback edition.

SteveSunriver

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate

Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS)…I Worry Most About Kids from Birth to Age 6…

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Dakotah, Age 4…a foster child who experienced early child trauma…

Post-Traumatic Stress in Children Age 6 and Under… quote from Anxiety and Depression Association of America… Click highlighted link for more on this topic…

Two or more of the following symptoms can emerge in young children who experience traumatic and toxic circumstances.

  • irritable, angry, or aggressive behavior, including extreme temper tantrums
  • hypervigilance
  • exaggerated startle response
  • problems with concentration
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep

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I’m asked often why I worry about babies and younger children the most when thinking, talking and writing about post-traumatic stress (PTS) and the toxic circumstances that often go with a family who suffers from PTS.  These are typically families with parents who served in hard combat as warriors and come home with the nagging symptoms of anxiety, depression, and anger that affects the entire family, especially kids.  I have taken the opportunity in this blog post to help answer this most important question with the goal to educate parents, teachers, mentors, and loved ones to be particularly sensitive to young children age 6 and under.  These are the little ones impacted the most.  This is the time of a child’s life when parents, teachers and loved ones who care for children can make a big difference in mitigating the potential long term emotional damage caused by PTS.

I started an exercise on a blank piece of paper keeping in mind the question, “why I worry about kids in toxic circumstances.”  I took a break after writing down about 35 “trigger” words that came to me from my own life experience.  These are words that needed to be transformed from fear to constructive healing over the years…redefining myself in a more positive context.  Then, I found the above link connected to trauma affected children age 6 and under.  These are the little ones I worry about the most…they are completely at the mercy of the grown ups in a toxic world that is often not even remembered…I have significant memory loss from my childhood, but the feelings of fear of this time remain with me. I do have vague but painful memories of kindergarten and 1st grade.  My memory then fades until around age 10.  Most all the “trigger” words can be organized and connected to the narrative in this link.  The bottom line in my journey of healing that pushes me forward with joy each day is forgiveness of self and others.

I worry the most about the babies, toddlers, preschoolers and K-1 kids who are damaged emotionally and must then face the real world for the first time with limited socialization. They are scared, very scared of themselves, others, and everything else they encounter.  Kids like this (me during my early childhood) are on alert for danger and behave defensively.  They are isolated, emotional, and often act out.  The ability to focus and concentrate is difficult at best.  There is little or no trust in adults.  While other typical  kids are laughing and playing and learning, trauma affected kids shy away and hide,  minds wondering without self regulation or a positive structure… These kids most often feel detached and out of place with peers.

The “trigger” words caused me to drift back in time and remember how it felt as a kid…So I now worry about children in this way, especially if it is clear they are troubled little souls.  I ask not what is wrong with these children, I ask what happened to them?  There is much sadness in my heart when thinking of children who must endure and survive a toxic home culture.

My goal as a trauma survivor who has done significant research and writing on the topic of PTS, is to produce a trauma informed work book to serve as a lay persons reference guide for parents, teachers, and mentors.  The process of developing a work book is at the beginning stage.   I anticipate a hardcopy publication to be completed by the end of 1st quarter 2016.  We adults must become trauma informed to be better equipped to help young children who have suffered from traumatic experiences.  Our children represent the best hope for the future.  It is during the younger years of a child when we have the best chance to mitigate the longer term emotional damage caused by exposure to traumatic circumstances.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story & My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2… Click the highlighted text for my author page and to order books…

SteveSunriver

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate