Tag Archives: #traumainformedgrowth

Trauma Informed Care Takes Center Stage! Stigma takes a back seat…

Listen to this powerful video clip…click here… Quote from this site…

“No one is immune to the impact of trauma. Trauma affects the individual, families, and communities by disrupting healthy development, adversely affecting relationships, and contributing to mental health issues including substance abuse, domestic violence, and child abuse. Everyone pays the price when a community produces multi-generations of people with untreated trauma by an increase in crime, loss of wages, and threat to the stability of the family.”

Trauma Informed Care is Within Reach! Quote from this site.

“Research tells us that experiencing traumatic life events can affect the way people learn, plan, and interact with others. Providing human services to individuals who have experienced trauma calls for an approach that takes into consideration their trauma histories.  This guide is designed for professional human services providers to help them decide if their services are trauma-informed and how best to deliver and design those services using evidence-based, evidence-informed, and innovative practices most relevant to their needs.”

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For me, the most encouraging news for children and families in these past few years is we know how trauma impacts the way we live, learn, and interact with others.  During the past 6 six years since researching and writing my books, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part2,  I have observed a huge investment on the part of communities everywhere, with great support on a national level, both public and private, to address the full impact of post traumatic stress on society. We now know trauma is a generational disease that can affect families for decades, even unborn children.  The research and evidence is indisputable.

In the beginning my research and writing was limited to understanding PTSD and the effect on my own post WWII and Korean War military family experience.  Although tackling a painful research project of revisiting the impact of growing up in a profoundly dysfunctional home was emotionally challenging at best, the end result was keen awareness, which led to forgiveness and healing.  I have discovered in my research how the wars we fight abroad come home to haunt families and loved ones at the dinner table.  We can no longer be silent as a society and allow our children to inhale the pain of their parents who suffer and expect these kids to grow up as typical healthy adults.  It is not just the wars we fight that haunt us for generations, it is violence in neighborhoods, crime, alcohol, drugs, and anger that feeds more violence and dysfunctional behaviors.  More seriously, these behaviors can carry forward to the next generation, over and over and over again.

We can stop the cycle of pain in its tracks by making the discussion and treatment of mental health disorders, alcohol and drug abuse as acceptable as cancer and heart disease treatment.  I can say as an aging boomer whose life changed after learning about the enormously painful impact of post traumatic stress and the wide ranging implications, that seeing a trauma informed society emerge in my lifetime is a gift.  It gives me peace of mind to believe that we can actually eliminate the stigma of mental illness in my lifetime.

All we have to do now is make it happen in our communities, schools, churches, and with the families most affected…often those who are less fortunate than us.  Click on the trauma informed resources guide link, here

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

Mental Health Stigma…Children & Families in Life After Trauma…

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Mental Health First Aid USA… ALGEE Bear…Assess, Listen, Give, Encourage, and Encourage…learn more…

Dear Kindred Spirits:

As an author, blogger, child advocate, and mental health champion, my great passion in life during these most valueable retirement years is to help stop the stigma connected with mental health. This goal is especially critical 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 write in my blog with a focus on Children and Families in Life After Trauma.  I also have the honor to serve on the Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC}.  In this past year, my work has been extended to a much wider audience as a contributor and radio host for www.ptsdchat.org.  With a more recent professional engagement connected to the Lincoln County Oregon Stepping Up Initiative, my heart and soul will be full of good works and positive energy in 2017.  I’ll be writing and speaking about these topics and more going forward.

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 a 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 Mental Health First Aid USA delivered at a local level to more quickly recognize mental health symptoms and identify alternative treatment strategies for those who suffer.

My only disclaimer is that my background and experience is that of a trauma survivor, researcher, and author who thrives…and not a mental health professional.  Consistent with my training as a Mental Health First Aid USA Adult Trainer, I encourage appropriate professional help and self-help resources.

With best wishes for your good health and happiness!  Happy New Year!

Vulnerability…Taking a Risk to be Authentic… Is it worth it?

Vulnerability researcher
Brené Brown studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Full bio

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. ” (Brené Brown)… click for video clip…

My experience learning to be vulnerable…by Steve Sparks…

I resisted being vulnerable on a personal level for most of my adult life until the prime age of 64.  While kicking and screaming, I finally gave in, completely!  In this very long and painful journey “risk taking” as a mask for being vulnerable was okay, however, on a professional level.  I believed that failing on the job at least once and trying again was the secret to being a successful change agent during my career in IT sales and marketing…  I paid a big price for being less than vulnerable at home away from work.  In my family, as a post WWII military child, we were taught to “suck it up.”  Toughness was critical to survival growing up in the “too terrible to remember 50’s.”  Outside of home it was difficult to build relationships because of the outwardly tough acting exterior.  Who wants to be around someone who doesn’t cry or has a hard time hugging and trusting others…and is angry more often than not?  To really engage in healthy ways with others, you must take a risk and be vulnerable on a personal level, not just at work.  When we achieve a good balance both at work and on a personal level without the shame of being exposed, the result is so much more fulfilling.  It is especially critical to be exceptionally vulnerable once leaving a long career and starting a new life in retirement, “The 3rd Act.”  As an aging boomer and a survivor, thriving is the centerpiece of maintaining an optimum creative mindset while being open to change and being an empathetic and compassionate human being.  I no longer resist being vulnerable both on a professional and personal level.  It is never too late to change if you embrace vulnerability…

Brene’ Brown brings tons of wisdom and truth with a humorous style while teaching us the value of being a healthy and vulnerable human being…  I am grateful for having listened to Ms. Brown’s TED talk and love sharing it with all my friends and family…

Steve Sparks

Steve Sparks Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, Mental Health Champion

My Author page…click here

Pain Killers and OPIOIDS Kill! Estimated 28,000 People Die Annually in America! Look at Lincoln County Oregon!

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Chandler Davis, Musician, Community Activist, Mental Health Champion, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

Lincoln County Oregon

From Chandler Davis…Lincoln County Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

HOW BAD IS IT? Here are some brand new statistics that the Lincoln County Addiction Prevention Recovery Committee (APARC) requested and has just received this month from the Oregon Health Authority (and which we have forwarded to the Lincoln County Department of Health & Human Services):
At this time the OHA data is only specific to the Medicaid population, but they show that in Lincoln County:
….20.2% of young adults ages 18-25 NEED addiction or substance use disorder (SUD) treatment — only 1 to 2% are GETTING any treatment!
….7.5% of youth ages 12-17 NEED SUD treatment. — fewer than 1% are RECEIVING it!
….7.2% of adults over 26 NEED treatment. — only 1.5% to 3.3% are RECEIVING treatment!
According to the Oregon Health Authority: There is “lots of work to be done in your county and across the state for outreach and engagement into treatment especially in the transitional age group 18-25.”
Oh yeah, and the LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH, in Oregon and Lincoln County, according to the Oregon Health Authority, is OPIOID OVERDOSE!
That bad.

Read more…

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Substance Abuse Statistics…click image for larger view…

Prescription Drug Overdose Guidance Measures…

The United States is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic.

Opioids (including prescription opioid pain relievers  and heroin) killed more than 28,000 people in 2014, more than any year on record. At least half of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.

Pentagon getting serious about Apparent over-prescription of anti-psychotic drugs

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Stan and Shirley White of W.Va., whose son Andrew, a Marine, suffered from PTSD. When he died in 2008 at 23, they blamed a “lethal cocktail” of drugs. They were in Phila. fighting the use of antipsychotics for service people. DAVID SELL / Staff

Combat veterans are especially at risk… click here for more…

“During about 300 missions, Andrew had a steady diet of death and destruction.
A combat engineer, Andrew cleared mines and improvised explosive devices from roads before they blew up his fellow Marines, soldiers, and civilians. After nine months, White was sent home and eventually received a medical discharge for PTSD.
“It changed him,” Stan White said of combat. “He became a recluse. In the last four months of his life, he ate two meals with the family. He would take his food to his room.”
On Feb. 12, 2008, when Andrew had failed to meet her for a planned lunch at a restaurant, Shirley White went home. She found him dead in his bed. He was 23.”

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The above quote from the referenced website article is becoming an all too common tragedy by combat veterans who suffer from the symptoms of PTSD.  Since the illness is invisible and soldiers will not even talk about their pain, they become a suicide risk without loved ones getting any warning.  The diet of prescription drugs and use of alcohol as well can cause a person to lose hope and no longer have a desire to live.  I know from my own experience that the side effects of medications can cause psychotic episodes that put you and others at risk.  I remain hopeful that the continued monitoring and research of anti psychotic drugs, especially mixing with other prescription medications, including alcohol will help mitigate a troubling trend.

Pain killers came into my life after decades of using alcohol for self-medication.  Physical health challenges hit me like a baseball bat once entering mid-life, especially in my 50’s.  My doctor was very stern with me about the risk of mixing prescription medications or opioids with alcohol.  I drank too much back then anyway, but my ego and self-talk rationalized a determination to start on pain killers and continue my self-medication ways of the past.  After just 12-18 months on this new regimen of pain, sleep, and anxiety medications along with alcohol, I was a total basket case to say the least.

At age 55 with strong support from my family, doctors, and own hyper-vigilance, I stopped drinking, period!  But what I didn’t do is curtail or manage effectively the use of prescription drugs.  I became addicted and kept taking prescription drugs as long as recovery from multiple surgeries to replace joints and fix a severe arthritic condition with chronic pain.  It took me until my mid 60’s to finally get off of pain medications and other opioids, only to discover then the many alternatives of non-narcotic medications and mindfulness exercises.  Now at almost age 70, my life is completely free of narcotic based medications for pain, sleep, and anxiety challenges.

And what a gift in life it has been not to take anything related to narcotics or alcohol!  I feel very lucky to still have a relatively healthy body and mind for the coming golden years of new opportunities and adventures in life.  I’m thankful for my wife and soul-mate who has been so supportive and loving for all of our 32 years of marriage.  I treasure the many years of happiness together.  But without a close friendship and dedication to working together confronting our life challenges, there would not be a future of hope and joy in these later years.

My passion to give back and help others who suffer from post-trauma stress has been strengthened by my own life experience.  I know we can save lives through building awareness and in advancing the conversation of post-traumatic growth that literally saves the lives of so many children and families in life after trauma.

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…from Amazon.com.

Steve2016

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

Post-Trauma Stress in Children Age 6 and Under. “I Worry About the Kids!”

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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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Post-Trauma Stress in Children Age 6 and Under… BlogTalkRadio… #ptsdchat

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…

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

“Advice for Family Members” Steve Sparks and Kate Gallie on PtsdChat.org Radio…

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PTSDchat.org Radio Podcast… BlogTalkRadio, HEALTH…Advice for Family Members, Hosted by Steve Sparks and Kate Gallie on June 8, 2016…

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“Advice for Family Members” is my first in-depth and heartfelt radio interview on the topic of children and families in life after trauma… I discuss my own story as a post WWII and Korean War military child growing up in the 1950’s and early 1960’s during a time when there was no awareness of post-traumatic stress and treatment strategies for individuals and families.  Your comments and questions would be most appreciated.  Thank you!

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 my books and other stuff…

Steve2016

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

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My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 2… Saving your children, family and loved ones from inter-generational Post Traumatic Stress (PTS)…Download ebook $3.99 here… or free Kindle Unlimited.

Why Talking About Mental Health Matters…to me…

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Mental Health Matters…to all of us!


The Guardian…quoting…

“I wonder if he really knew what he was doing that day. Did he realize then just how much his death would haunt me? How I’d carry the weight of him with me every day, wondering why he did it, trying to decipher the few tear-stained words in the inadequate note he left, wondering if there’s any reason in the world good enough to leave your two young daughters without a dad? Did he realize I’d spend my life listening to his favorite songs, watching the one existing video of him to remember his voice, crying on Father’s Day or his birthday or any random day, because it suddenly hit me all over again that he was never coming back? Would it stop him?”

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Regional Health Assessment, Linn, Benton, & Lincoln Counties, Oregon Download pdf from this link.

From my perspective the single most pressing challenge presented in the Regional Health Assessment is “awareness and understanding.”  The good news is we are finally making favorable progress, but we have so much more to do to help create broader and focused awareness.  My community has been slow at mental health awareness in the 11 years we have lived in Lincoln County, Oregon.  As a mental health advocate, I hear the conversation on public health issues, especially mental health, improve significantly over the past 5 years.

A measure of how far we have to go is that folks, by and large, do not like to admit having mental health challenges in front of others in a conversational setting.  With around 30 citizens, health care professionals, civic leaders, and educators attending this important conference, I was the only person in the room who indicated a personal and family history of mental health struggles.  Of course, when there is an opening to talk about other physical or medical health issues, most people are very open and conversational in just about any setting.  Until mental health is a completely open discussion in any setting, especially in a public heath professional forum, it will take much longer than my limited time on the planet to make optimum progress on the regional goals outlined in the Public Health Assessment.  The goals include the following…

Assessment Goals and Objectives for Linn, Benton, and Lincoln County Regional Health Assessment (RHA):

  • Identifies and gathers health status indicators in order to determine the current health status of the community
  • Describes areas for potential future health improvement while building upon ongoing community knowledge and efforts
  • Identifies common strengths and challenges facing the region in regard to health status
  • Recognizes and highlights the need for more detailed local data
  • Is a collaborative process that incorporates a broad range of community voices

With reference to the Guardian quote above, the worst case scenario is the life long emotional pain carried by loved ones who suffer as a consequence from secondary mental health challenges. The young lady was 5 years old when her father took his life.  Her pain has lived with her for 25 years, and is at times worse with aging.  This is not an uncommon result of a severe traumatic life event for a child.  So, it is not just the loss of a loved one, it is the exponential emotional damage and mental health risk carried forward by loved ones and family members.  If we are not honest and open about the generational implications of trauma in our lives and fail to see the global picture, progress in achieving the goals above will take more time, money and frustration.

My take away from the conference was a feeling of encouragement that we are moving in the right direction. In the list of goals above, it is in the “collaborative process that incorporates a broad range of community voices”  that will lead us to success as a community.  I believe strong leadership is needed to build new collaborative efforts and partnerships through out Lincoln County Oregon.

Talking about mental health matters to all of us!

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2…

Steve2016

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