Tag Archives: My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma Part 1&2 by Steve Sparks

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)

 

 

 

 

 

Prevent Domestic Violence in Life After War…Kids Become Collateral Damage…

 

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survivethriveptsd.com A work in progress, anticipated publish date September 2016.

 

Treatment Interventions for Veterans with PTSD  by Mike Willbur, M.S., LMHC and Susanne Ruiz Rodriguez, Esq, M.S.

“If there is violence and/or abuse in the home, recognize it for what it really is – violence and abuse. Violence and/or abuse are present in a place that is supposed to be a sanctuary. Does everyone under the roof where you live feel safe? Does your partner feel self-empowered? Is there mutual respect in the home? When you feel irritable, are you able to talk about it with your partner? These are just a few questions that should be asked and if not answered appropriately, then it’s time to seek help.”

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When loved ones return home following deployment in hard combat, the risk of domestic violence resulting from post-trauma stress is much higher without proactive treatment.  The stigma of mental health challenges takes a toll on the entire family, especially children, because those who suffer from the horrific memories of war are often in denial  for many reasons and refuse treatment.  I know this to be true as a post WWII child who carries the emotional baggage of domestic violence to this day. My research shows evidence of an epidemic of generational post-trauma stress in literally thousands of families who live with emotional pain and toxic family relationships from one generation to the next.  How can we break the cycle of abuse and emotional pain that seems to stick like bad genes in families who must learn to love all over again?

I so wish and pray that healing from post-traumatic stress (PTS) could be as simple and easy as treating a case of the measles or the flu, or even taking clear steps to avoid or cure more serious physical health challenges.  But in treating PTS,  it is clearly very complicated and often a life long process or journey of healing…

We know so much more and have a high level of awareness of post-traumatic stress circumstances in the 21st Century.  It is up to families to break the cycle of pain by seeking pre-deployment preparation and education as a first step.  Do not wait! Build a proactive plan as a family.  There are excellent resources at your fingertips just by doing a search with the words “post-trauma stress.”  My website includes archives of over 800 posts, articles and links, books to purchase and download to your ebook reader.

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

SteveSunriver

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate

 

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Steve Sparks Amazon.com

“Higher risk PTSD gay, lesbian, bisexual, ‘mostly heterosexual’ youth” HARVARDgazette

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Dream, Hope, Love…

Higher Risk of PTSD for LGBT Community, especially younger kids and adults…  News from Harvard schools, offices, and affiliates

“We looked at a group of people who are at the cusp of adulthood and found much higher levels of PTSD in sexual orientation minorities compared with heterosexuals. We found that differences in PTSD by sexual orientation already exist by age 22. This is a critical point at which young adults are trying to finish college, establish careers, get jobs, maintain relationships, and establish a family,” said lead author Andrea Roberts, research associate in HSPH’sDepartment of Society, Human Development, and Health. Previous studies by Roberts and her colleagues identified more PTSD symptoms in a group of sexual minorities aged 40-60. Gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, “mostly heterosexuals,” and heterosexuals who have ever had a same-sex sex partner were found to be one-and-a-half to two times as likely to experience violent events, especially in childhood, than the general population and have double the risk of experiencing PTSD as a consequence. (See 2010 HSPH press release.)

The research appears online and in an upcoming print issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

“Traumatic events like active combat, child maltreatment, interpersonal violence, or unexpected death of a loved one can lead to PTSD, a mental illness which is characterized by distressing memories of the traumatic event, avoidance of objects, places, or people associated with the event, emotional numbing and an increased sense of vigilance. PTSD in turn can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and difficulties with relationships and employment if it goes untreated. The lifetime risk of PTSD in the general population is about 4% for men and 10% for women. Among sexual minority adults, the risk of PTSD is doubled – over 9% for men and 20% for women.”

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I have great empathy and compassion for the often emotional challenges connected with the gay community.  One of my closest life-long dear friends is a gay man, who survived the tragic early circumstances of HIV in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  My friend, Jon, has lived through more painful and tragic trauma for decades than most.  The worst part of his traumatic experience is to watch the slow and painful death of so many loved ones in his life.  I have been through most of this with him as a loving and devoted battle buddy at work and as close friends.  When there are tough times, I listen mostly with a loving and caring heart.  In good times there is so much joy and fun times with Jon, who also worked with me as an outstanding colleague during my career.  He has a heart as large as the moon, a work ethic that sets an example for the best of us,  Jon models the best in all of us along with unmatched resilience to overcome the worst of emotional challenges.  I love Jon as my brother, best friend, and colleague who has always been there for me and my family as we journey through life together.

I will address the LGBT community post-trauma stress topic in a most healing and loving way in my new workbook project, “I Worry About the Kids” to be published during the summer of 2016.

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 and to order books, etc.

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

Positive Thinking? – Try This to Curb Teen Anxiety

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Forget Positive Thinking – Try This to Curb Teen Anxiety  Psych Center with Renee Jain MAPP

Going from Distorted Thinking to Accurate Thinking

Once teens understand why they fall into thought holes and that several common ones exist, they are ready to start filling them in by trying a method we developed in the GoZen! anxiety relief program called the 3Cs:

  • Check for common thought holes
  • Collect evidence to paint an accurate picture
  • Challenge the original thoughts

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The research underway for my new workbook project for parents, teachers, and mentors, requires activities and exercises at the end of each chapter. “I Worry About the Kids” will offer the reader and workshop attendees to think about their own circumstances and needs at home or school, and develop a plan of action.  I like this idea of looking at “distorted thinking” and actively translating to “accurate thinking.”  My goal is to find examples of actions and exercises that will help parents and teachers help kids deal with anxiety and depression in constructive and well received ways that make sense to children.  Lecturing platitudes and making judgements that create negative energy and knock kids down, never worked from my experience as a child and as a parent.  Take a look at this “accurate thinking” idea and tell me what you think.  Other ideas are most welcome as we build the workbook product.

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 order books…

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

 

 

 

Pre-school and Kindergartners…Big test for kids affected by trauma…

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Trauma Affected Pre-school & Kindergartner Kids Need More Help…ByHealthDay Reporter Sharecare News…

“Childhood traumas of various sorts can cause kindergartners to struggle in class as well as life, new research contends.

A study of more than 1,000 urban children showed those with difficult experiences up until age 5 had math and reading difficulties and difficulty focusing in kindergarten, and were also more likely to have social problems and to be aggressive toward others.”

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The referenced report was shared with me by my good friend, Byron, who is also a child advocate.  His work with Sharecare is often a great resource in my own research and is an excellent reference for parents, teachers, and mentors.

Too many children are caught in the middle in early life when there is violence in the home caused by the symptoms connected with family circumstances of post-trauma stress; including, alcohol, drugs, crime, domestic violence, and poverty, lack of education, developmentally delayed parents, and overall chaos in the home or neighborhood. Some homes are just plain scary, causing kids to retreat and become silent at home and school. These are the kids we need to help the most before they reach age 6 or 7, when at that time the challenge of changing brain development becomes a longer term retrofit process and treatment regimen.

Please take a closer look at the referenced Sharecare News article.  Think about the children in your life who are just starting school for the first time.  Pre-school and kindergarten can be an opportunity to help kids who have experienced traumatic events at a young age, if we know what to look for.  As  trauma informed adults we can make a big difference in helping youngsters get a positive kick-start on the first day of school.

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…

SteveSunriver

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate