Monthly Archives: July 2016

Post Polio Traumatic Stress… Lives with Boomers Well Into the 21st Century…

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The image functions as a kind of community-based awareness campaign to motivate people to act. It is rooted in the baby boom years of the 1940s and 1950s, with their focus on children. Sweet, sentimental images of childhood appeared on greeting cards and advertising throughout the decades.

Post Polio Traumatic Stress  Quote from this article…

Improving the Quality of Life: Healing Polio Memories

by Linda L. Bieniek, CEAP, La Grange, Illinois, and Karen Kennedy, MSW, RSW, Toronto, Canada

“While it is common for individuals to experience frustration or discouragement with the loss of physical function, unresolved memories from the original polio experience may amplify the intensity of their emotional responses. Some individuals live with traumatic memories of physical, emotional, or psychological injuries that have impaired their view of the world (Hale, 1996). Others may not have specific polio memories or traumas, but acknowledge the ongoing stress of coping with disability as a child, and now as an adult.”

History of Polio click here

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I find it hard to believe that so many of us who survived polio in early childhood after World War II never connected our post-trauma stress implications to slower brain development to the polio we contracted as a small child.

I was two years old when I was diagnosed with polio, but have only the vaguest images of life back then. My older brother, Jerry, shared his memories about what was going on in my family and after learning what he did during those years, he’s become my hero! Jerry was seven years old in 1948. Polio was a scary and crippling virus because we had no vaccine or therapy. According to Jerry, our family was trying to recover from Dad’s involvement in World War II and his readjustment to home life. Our home was chaotic and toxic, to say the least.

Brother Jerry’s recall of 1948 in the Sparks family home…

My recall is not as good as I’d like it to be about your polio crisis, but here is what I remember… Your hospital period lasted weeks. We were all very fatigued. Children my age were not allowed to visit in the hospital. Regardless, I had to babysit our brother, Dan. After you came home, you cried day and night for weeks because of the pain. You finally settled down, but because time is felt differently by children, perhaps “weeks” isn’t correct. All I know is that you cried for a very long time and your healing took a long time. It must have been at least one year before your distorted face began to relax.

Keep in mind that there was no physical therapy available for children with polio then. Your entire left side was our responsibility. The rest of the family would work your arm and shoulder, and helped you learn to walk again. Talking also had to be re-learned. Potty training had to be relearned. I learned to change diapers before I was six. I was still doing it for Dan, and a bit more diapers was no big deal when I was needed to help.

You did catch up with Dan eventually and you seemed like a normal kid. Having Dan so close to you in age was excellent therapy for you. You were as closely bonded as twins. Even though he was younger, Dan develop faster than you for a number of years. He could speak and converse better and was more coordinated. I was still a little kid then too and had a lot of fun with the “BooMan” (short for boogieman) after you were active again.

Brother Steve’s reaction…

Just learning about this time in 1948 through Jerry’s eyes has given me moral strength, healing, and a deep appreciation for a worst-case scenario for a young family experiencing post-trauma challenges. I am so grateful for Jerry who was always there for the rest of us younger kids. I was lucky to survive and become reasonably physically active. But it is clear that polio set back my brain development. I’m much more willing to accept this now in the later years of my life.  My big brother Jerry is truly my hero, who helped bring me back from a debilitating illness so long ago.

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 and other stuff from Amazon…

Steve2016

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

Mental Health 1st Aid Comes to Oregon! Why do we need mental health 1st aid training?

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Mental Health 1st Aid Saves Lives!

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When we started doing an exercise during a community Mental Health 1st Aid workshop to demonstrate how it feels to experience auditory hallucintations, I had not a clue what this term meant.  When my fellow student, Winnie, started to talk to me, I was hearing a voice in the background, acted out by another student, Bill, who used a rolled up paper to say weird stuff to me.  The questions included, Why are you talking to her? Don’t trust her.  Is she looking at you? Why would she want to talk to you?  Bill, had this rolled up piece of paper in my ear yelling at me.  I started whacking at the bull horn and looking around at him in distress because I could not hear or concentrate on anything Winnie was saying to me.  It was at this moment I realized how a person suffering from a psychotic episode must feel.  I then realized why so many of us do not know how to respond or what to do when we see a person struggling outwardly from the nagging, disruptive, and painful voices in their head.  It was then it hit me like a good slap in the face why Mental Health 1st Aid training must be mandatory in our society as a integral part of America’s First Aid Training.

I highly recommend to everyone to make it a personal goal in the coming weeks and months to take the Mental Health 1st Aid one day training in your community.  You will receive a certificate of completion to hang up in your office or home that shows you have completed the 8 hour course. It is critical to let others know that you have the awareness, compassion, and empathy for those who struggle with mental health challenges.  The workshop will provide the tools to help friends and family, even strangers, in several ways. As part of the class students also receive an easy to read, and well done reference and workbook entitled, Mental Health First Aid USA, First Edition, to keep on hand. Following is the action plan learned from the workshop.

What You Learn Click for more from Mental Health First Aid USA…

Just as CPR helps you assist an individual having a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid helps you assist someone experiencing a mental health or substance use-related crisis. In the Mental Health First Aid course, you learn risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns, strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and non-crisis situations, and where to turn for help.

En Español


Topics Covered

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  • Depression and mood disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Trauma
  • Psychosis
  • Substance Use disorders

Mental Health First Aid teaches about recovery and resiliency – the belief that individuals experiencing these challenges can and do get better, and use their strengths to stay well.


 The Mental Health First Aid Action Plan…ALGEE

  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm
  • Listen nonjudgmentally
  • Give reassurance and Information
  • Encourage appropriate professional help
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies

ALGEE, the Mental Health First Aid mascot

ALGEE, the Mental Health First Aid mascot, and mnemonic for the 5-step action plan

Interventions Learned

When you take a course, you learn how to apply the Mental Health First Aid action plan in a variety of situations, including when someone is experiencing:

    • Panic attacks
    • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
    • Nonsuicidal self-injury
    • Acute psychosis (e.g., hallucinations or delusions)
    • Overdose or withdrawal from alcohol or drug use
    • Reaction to a traumatic event

The opportunity to practice — through role plays, scenarios, and activities — makes it easier to apply these skills in a real-life situation.

You don’t want to miss Mental Health First Aid training when it comes to your community!  I feel much better equipped now to help friends and family, and even strangers, who are struggling.

Steve2016

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

Books by Steve Sparks: Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, 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.

Healing from Toxic Family Circumstances… A PTSDchat Talk Radio Interview with Kate Gillie and Steve Sparks

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Reconciliation: A Son’s Story by Steve Sparks, published November, 2011 by Signalman Publishing… Learn about a post WWII and Korean War Navy military family’s struggle in life after war…

PTSDchat Talk Radio with Kate Gillie and Steve Sparks on July 13, 2016...click highlighted text for podcast…

It is always fun and healing to have a conversation with Kate Gillie, PTSDchat.org.  I wasn’t planning to be on the radio show this week, but when reading Kate’s blog post, PTSDchat Toxic Relationships, I was moved to write a blog post to complement Kate.  Then, when finding out Kate was by herself last night, I jumped at the opportunity to poke my nose in on the radio show.  I love getting my good 2-cents in on a conversation I care about deeply.  Although the topic can be troublesome and trigger-some for those of us who live with these toxic family circumstances that caused trauma in our lives, talking with others who have suffered and survived is a most healing therapy…and we thrive this way.

Since publishing my first book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story in 2011 my journey of healing has come along way, a very long way.  Getting rid of post trauma stress symptoms completely is probably not realistic for most, but we learn along the way how to mitigate our feelings by practicing alternative treatment therapies to help us live in the moment with feet firmly on the ground.  If I had not found a way to heal by using a gift of writing and God given creative talents, it would have been a much tougher road ahead, now 6 years later looking back with grateful enthusiasm…a peace of mind most appreciated in these later years in life.

I recommend my dear friends and followers listen to the podcast.  If you are curious to learn more about my family, I write with a passion, and thoughtful authenticity in my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Download the e-book version or order the paperback edition to keep on your bookshelf for friends and family who desire to learn about healing from traumatic events in life.

My very best wishes to all…

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.

Steve2016

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

What is Profoundly Dysfunctional Parenting? And What Happens to the Kids?

 

Ethan Couch

Ethan Couch the “Affluenza” Teen, picked up in Mexico…

Following is an excerpt from the manuscript of my new book project, I Worry About the Kids.

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Profoundly Dysfunctional Parenting

When home life is profoundly dysfunctional bad things happen to parents, children, and loved ones. The ripple effects of toxic behavior created by post-traumatic symptoms can be suicide, school problems, and legal trouble.

“Affluenza” Teen, Ehtan Couch Detained in Mexico…

One recent example of a profoundly dysfunctional home is the case of a teenager from Texas who got off a little too easily after killing four people while driving drunk in 2013. The media used the word “affluenza” to describe the situation in which Ethan Couch, a teenager, was put on probation for this criminal offense. He was not held accountable. Couch is a child from a wealthy family who was given minimal direction and discipline in a home that revolved around too much alcohol, substance abuse, and no structure for the boy. Couch was allowed to drink at age 13 and drive a vehicle without a license. His dysfunctional parents partied as their principal activity and did whatever they wanted whenever they wanted to do it. They were not concerned with parenting their son. Mental health issues were also evident. After Couch was released from jail, he and his mother conspired to escape to Mexico to avoid his probation. They were arrested in Puerto Vallarta and sent back to Texas.

This family desperately needed help, but was apparently in denial about the serious situation they were in. All his life, there had been no consequences for Couch’s bad decisions. From an young age, he had been headed for a life of crime because no one called him on his behavior and no one insisted he follow a healthy, sane path. Without effective parenting and mentoring, the pattern of dysfunction continues. Since their arrest in Mexico, the Couch family has demonstrated no remorse or accountability for their actions.

The scope of the mental health problem in kids under six years old is huge and dangerous for the families involved and for society. The following information comes from an infographic, “Are the Kids Alright?”
www.topcounselingschools.org

Youth-Counseling

Click the image to expand the view…

Mental illness is often thought of only as an adult concern. But half of mental illnesses begin to reveal themselves in childhood. Almost 15 million American children have some kind of diagnosable mental disorder, but only 20 percent of those children are identified and treated. The ripple effects include suicide, school problems, and legal trouble. Early identification and adequate treatment can quite literally be the difference between life and death for young people with mental illness.

Signs of mental illness in children aged 4 through 6 include bad behavior at daycare, preschool, or kindergarten; extreme disobedience or aggression; lots of temper tantrums all the time; hyperactivity outside of what other children are doing; excessive fear, worrying, or crying; persistent nightmares; and insomnia. Although children’s brains are still in a state of development, adequate treatment of mental disorders can help put a young person on a path to a healthy future. Options include psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, art therapy, animal-assisted therapy, group therapy, and medication.

Can’t we do more?

Steve2016

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

Author Page, Here…

Community Violence Affects Children More Than We Realize… What should parents know?

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“Infant mental health” refers to how well a child develops socially and emotionally from birth to three.

ZEROtoThree.org

“Understanding infant mental health is the key to preventing and treating the mental health problems of very young children and their families. It also helps guide the development of healthy social and emotional behaviors. Learn more about infant mental health and how important trusted relationships are for infants and children.”

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Following is an excerpt from my latest book project, I Worry About The Kids, a workbook for parents, teachers, and mentors…

No child of any age should have to live anywhere that is not wholesome, safe, secure, and surrounded by loving human beings!

According to the Handbook of Infant Mental Health, general symptoms of post-traumatic stress in young children can include:

  • Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive and distressing recollections of the event through flashbacks, and nightmares (Note: Spontaneous and intrusive memories may not necessarily appear distressing and may be expressed as play reenactment.)
  • Avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma, and emotional numbness.
  • Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered.
  • Increased anxiety in strange situations.
  • Recurrent distressing dreams related to the content and/or feeling of the traumatic events. (Note: It may not be possible to ascertain that the frightening content is related to the traumatic event.)
  • Reactions as if the traumatic events are recurring; the most extreme being a complete loss of awareness of present surroundings. (Note: Such trauma-specific reenactment may occur in play.)
  • Hyper-vigilance, exaggerated startle response, irritability, withdrawal.
  • Diminished interest or participation in significant activities such as play.
  • Persistent reduction in expression of positive emotions.
  • Clinginess to caretaker.
  • Over/under use of words related to the trauma.
  • Distress in relationships with parents, siblings, peers, or other caregivers, or with school behavior not attributable to another medical condition.

Just because children cannot or do not talk about their feelings does not mean the feelings are not there. If not recognized and treated early on, post-traumatic stress disorder will manifest later in the lives of these children.

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.

Steve2016

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

Boomers at 70 will change America Again…Making a Difference for Humanity… by Steve Sparks

“These seventy something Boomers are poised to give Millennials some real competition for attention. They have the opportunity to become increasingly relevant — socially, economically and politically — and more responsive than previous seniors to the needs of an ever changing nation.” Click here for more…from USA Today…

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Boomers at 70 will change America Again!  As I turn 70 on July 6th, with countless others from my generation, my excitement and energy for this next decade of my life has never been better. It is the younger generation of millennials, children and young adults that keep my spirits high. I take my cues from the youngest and brightest, and strive to be the best senior mentor in a rapidly changing world.

We should listen to and observe the creative and disruptive behaviors of our children, and young adults.  Never push back the kids and tell them to think about something else that is more serious than what we think they are doing at the moment.  What do we know?  We adults and seniors should never lose sight of kids who remind us how to live in the moment and make dreams come true.

Reflecting on my childhood and young adult experience so long ago, I still behave the same in many ways.  As a child I was always asking questions about many things, wondering, and dreaming about all the possibilities, and still do this each and every day.  I have a very busy mind, just like a kid.  I tested the stormy seas many times in my life and have known great success and the lessons learned from failing. I get right back up just like youngsters and keep fighting and moving forward one day at a time. Kids fall down often and always get up.  Kids have resilience.  Even under some tough circumstances as post WWII and Korean War military kids we got back up and took ownership for taking the next scary step forward.  We boomers must get right back up too!  No giving up and going home to watch CNN or FOX; or to hide on the porch, lost in a world that is safe while others are struggling and in pain.  Get out and make a difference for humanity each and every day.  Your wisdom and leadership is a vital source of energy in your community.

Now at age 70, I want to keep the child in me alive, and jump in with both feet, just like the younger generations do each and every day.  I want to be in the middle of all the action even now as the 7th decade of my life is staring me right in the face.  The child in me is the fuel that keeps a fire burning in my belly.  It is also love of life, spirituality, and humanity that gets the blood pumping in my veins everyday of the week.  Mostly it is my love for people and cultures everywhere.  It is from my soul and heart that making a difference for others drives me to keep on fighting for healthy change…to help others keep pace with a rapidly changing world, and to not become complacent with the old ways of doing things.  Kids help us stay on top of our toes and to never become complacent.  While doing all this, I have more freedom to smell the the ocean, hike in the mountains, explore new places,  and reserve quality time with my family and friends.  All of this energy provides a healthy balance for me at this pivotal time in life at age 70.

I celebrate children and young adults who keep teaching us about dreaming and making stuff happen.  Just look around and keep your eyes open, and listen carefully.  The kids are moving forward very quickly, even without us adults, because they can, and they should.  If you don’t recognize this happening for any reason or do not see any value in keeping pace with your kids or grand children, get a smartphone, laptop, tablet or other technology device and catch up with the reality of social media communications in the 21st Century.  We are blessed to live longer these days as seniors and must stay on top of our game to make a difference.  We can’t go home, sit back and watch life from the sidelines. It is our duty to step-up and lead again.  Older Americans are a critical human resource and needed right now.  In case my boomer friends and colleagues didn’t see the memo, we never stop mentoring, guiding, and facilitating.  I feel needed right now! If you don’t feel needed in these later years, walk with confidence into the fire storm of community action and find your place in a changing world. Your work is not done!

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Post Trauma Growth Advocate, and Children’s Champion…

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 other stuff from Amazon.

Steve2016

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

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Saving your children, family and loved ones from inter-generational post-trauma stress (PTS)

 

 

PTSDchat Talk Radio Interview…Erundina Lopez, Cast Member “Buried Above Ground”

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Click here…for #PTSDchat Talk Radio Interview with Steve Sparks and Erundina Lopez… Click here for more about the film, Buried Above Ground…

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Erundina Lopez, Cast Member, and Survivor of Domestic Abuse, Buried Above Ground…

Steve Sparks Interview with Erundina Lopez… A very real discussion on the strength and faith of a trauma survivor…love and hope at the center of healing and returning to a productive and rewarding life… Click the podcast here… There is a short technical delay before the podcast interview starts, so please be just a little bit patient.  Thank you!

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The first time I met Erun Lopez was while watching this heartbreaking account of her sometimes hopeless journey to find a path of healing after a life long struggle living with post-trauma stress.  Erun left home at age 14 to escape a violent and abusive home life plagued by the ignorance and total breakdown of communications among family members that often takes shape in a toxic home.  Before the interview, I spoke to her on the phone and messaged with her for two days.  I felt like her brother, dear friend and kindred spirit before the interview on Wednesday evening June 29, 2016.  Erun’s story of surviving, thriving and healing from a life of post trauma emotional pain finally takes her to a place of deep empathy, compassion, forgiveness and love at age 53.  Erun is a beautiful person with so much love and so much to give others who need to know that there is hope, even under some of the toughest circumstances you can imagine. Erun now survives and thrives with an eloquent and articulate voice that goes straight to your heart and soul.

It was a honor for me to be asked to host the #PTSDchat Talk Radio Show this last Wednesday evening.  Please take a listen to this powerful interview that will touch your heart deeply.

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

Steve2016

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

 

Freedom is not Free! Learning the Value of Leadership Early in Life…

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Bryan Ritchey… finished his freshman year at Barat Academy, where he played on the Boys’ Varsity Soccer and Junior Varsity Golf teams, as well as participated in the Spring Musical. Bryan crossed over into Boy Scouts in 2010. He has held several leadership positions throughout his scouting career.

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Bryan Ritchey, Veterans Memorial “Honoring Heroes” Project…Dardenne Prairie, Missouri.  Click photo for larger view.

Freedom is not free…  Quote from this website article by Bryan Ritchey, Eagle Scout, Boy Scott Troop #984…

“Eagle Scout represents the culmination of the Boy Scouts’ finest achievements. The focus is on service and leadership, with the most important and well-known requirement being to “plan, develop and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school or your community.” To put it simply, the Eagle Scout rank provides the opportunity to give back to others.”

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I don’t know Bryan Ritchey, but feel very proud of him and other young men and women who learn early about the sacrifice of protecting the freedoms we enjoy as Americans.  I am also a big fan of programs that teach kids leadership and community service early in life.  Giving back and making a difference for others is a heartfelt payment for all the blessings and gifts we receive over a lifetime.  Besides, there is no other work I can think of that is more rewarding than community service…

Bryan Ritchey sets an example of learning about leadership early in life through working with the Boy Scouts of America.  If there is one thing kids need to learn and grasp as early as possible, it is to “step up and lead.”  America will always be short changed when it comes to leadership development and skills.  Future leaders in both private and public enterprise are very critical to solving the problems and challenges of our time.  In my experience, young people and even adults shy away from taking on leadership roles for fear of failure or inability to achieve what often appears to be a monumental task.

Leadership is learned and skills are acquired when taking the first big step of accepting a leadership responsibility.   The risk is certainly a factor for anyone willing to step up and lead.  But the rewards are far greater when we achieve big goals that require a strong team and a great leader.  Bryan Ritchey has proven as a young adult in his own community that he can make a difference as a leader.  You can do it too…

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…

Steve2016

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