Monthly Archives: September 2019

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)…Why is Hugging Sooo Very Critical?

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Sad Kids

The reality of my own “adverse childhood experiences” is just catching up with me at age 73. My guess is I’m not alone. Not too long ago I took an ACEs test for the very first time, and scored 9/10, not good, terrible really, and sad, very sad. The only reason for not getting the worst ACEs score of 10 was our parents stayed married. From my own life experiences, I don’t know if staying married makes any sense if it damages children with life-long mental health challenges, like me and so many others. But back in the 1950’s, the US Navy was the only source of income for our family. Otherwise, we would have been foster kids, and that could have made things far worse. We will never know.

Steve Sparks 1948…

Healing Kids

It was a very tough start for me as a young child when I contracted Polio at age 2 in 1948. Of course, there are no memories, probably a good thing. But from learning through conversations with my loving and caring siblings, I know that around that time, early in Polio research and before the discovery of a vaccine by Jonas Salk, I was isolated for many weeks in the US Naval Hospital in San Diego, CA. People were scared of Polio back then, so there was little or no hugging or nurturing as a toddler and throughout my childhood.

The unfortunate and emotionally numb state of mind of my mother for all of my childhood must have caused me to feel alone and scared that something was wrong with me…click here. Why did other kids get hugs and not me? What was wrong with me? My siblings were not hugged either, so it seemed that was the way it was in our home. Sadly, our home during the 50s and early 60s before I left home at age 17, was a loveless, chaotic, cold and scary place to be. My father was just getting back on his feet from 4 years fighting during the Pacific War, including surviving Pearl Harbor. Dad was also deployed for 9 months during the Korean War. Both parents suffered from significant mental health challenges from their own ACEs and after the war for the rest of their lives…inadequate treatment.

With much sadness in my heart, hugging and nurturing was not in the mix back then for our US Navy military family. Hugging – 7 Benefits For You And Your Child (Backed By Science)…click here. Add that to the overall profoundly dysfunctional culture in our home following the war, and it is not surprising that an ACEs score of 9/10 would apply to all 5 children in the Sparks home. Every one of us took all the baggage of moral injury into adult life. We decided as a family to end the cycle of intergenerational pain. The true motivation for me in healing is to leave this planet with a smile, peace of mind and a heart full of warm fuzzies.

Hope for Recovery! We are all survivors…

Happy Adult Kids

The good news from all of the truly painful childhood experiences, is that it is never too late to heal and recover. Healing is a life long journey of being exceptionally kind to yourself every day. It is hard, very complicated and painful at times to navigate my own journey of healing. I will say without a doubt, it is worth it! With a strong and loving family support system, great friends, and colleagues, I feel hopeful that peace of mind is now a healthy work in progress. I have also learned from my heightened awareness that with a “whole patient” treatment and recovery strategy, recovery success per the above reference is 86%. There is HOPE!

When you go home and hug your kids tonight, hug them tight, and tell them you love them. Help your little ones grow up so they leave home happy, healthly, confident, loving, and smart.

Best wishes on your own journey of healing!

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Mental Health Advocate

Lincoln County Oregon Builds a Collaborative Community…Transforming Health Care to a Patient Centered Model…

Lincoln County Commissioner, Claire Hall, a close friend and colleague, asked me to come in for a visit in May of 2016 after she attended a National Association of Counties (NACo) conference in Washington D.C. At that moment the Stepping Up Initiative was hatched in Claire’s office, and the rest is history. Commissioner Hall hired me as project consultant, and recruited newly installed Lincoln County Sheriff Curtis Landers to join the project leadership team. It is within this leadership structure and steadfast commitment that we began paving the way for the amazing transformation we have experienced as a community in the last three (3) years, including a ready and willing community of partners and stakeholders. As a community we had reached a critical point in 2016 when we had to change or be left behind as a rural County of close to 50,000 citizens. We were running out of time…

Lincoln County Commissioners, Kaety Jacobson, Claire Hall, and Doug Hunt

On October 5, 2016 Lincoln County Oregon Board of Commissioners (BOC) passed a resolution to make Stepping Up Initiative a top priority for leading Lincoln County into a 21st Century transformative health care delivery system; especially for the most vulnerable citizens, including our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, cousins, who are so often left behind in the streets as homeless, and all too often suffer from mental illness, and addiction. We then set out to navigate the County through an exciting and challenging period of change and breaking down barriers. As a community we were too siloed stuck in place for far too long. We had limited collaborations and partnerships which denied the community of diversified funding opportunities. Lincoln County Sheriff, Curtis Landers stepped up immediately to help lead with a smart on crime approach of diverting vulnerable individuals from the County Jail and hospital emergency services to community based treatment and recovery upstream services…a continuum of care.

Lincoln County Sheriff Curtis Landers

The culmination of this awesome community building effort was represented in full force last Friday, September 13th. With a full moon and the stars aligned we met for the 3rd year as a leadership team of partners and stakeholders to review progress and continue to close the gaps and solidify Stepping Up Initiative as the new community based culture of collaboration. Hosted by Oregon Center on Behavioral Health & Justice Integration, the workshop goals are focused on this broader theme…

“Mental health and criminal justice systems often collide, creating significant barriers to treatment and support services. Sequential Intercept Mapping & Taking Action for Change helps develop and implement plans for community change through cross-system collaboration. This workshop enhances practices and facilitates organizational change utilizing innovative and dynamic tools to map systems, identify gaps in service, and clarify community resources.”

Goals

  • Further the delivery of appropriate services to people with mental illness and/or substance use disorders involved in the criminal justice system
  • Assist in identifying gaps in service
  • Optimize use of local resources

Topics and Activities

This program is customized to the very specific needs and desired outcomes of our community.

  • Cross-Systems Mapping
  • Identifying Resources and Gaps in Service
  • Setting Community Priorities
  • Developing an Action Plan to Implement Change

As a long time citizen of Lincoln County and Depoe Bay, Oregon, I’m so very honored and proud to have been part of this unprecedented community building effort in our coastal community. Lincoln County now leads in the State of Oregon and across the nation as a transformative rural community. We can be proud as a community of the excellent leadership and commitment from Lincoln County Board of Commissioners and Sheriff for their steadfast leadership commitment…and innovative spirit. We succeeded in becoming an empowered community of partners and stakeholders…and there is no turning back the clock. We are more than ready for the next generation of Stepping Up Initiative…2.0.

Steve Sparks, Project Consultant, Stepping Up Initiative, Lincoln County Oregon and Resident Cheer Leader

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Mental Health Advocate

On the Brink! As a Young Adult Serving in the US Navy 1965…

Depression and Suicide Among Young Adults

As an 18 year old young man in the US Navy in 1965, I was very lucky!  Click here… Thanks to the excellent care by US Navy mental health professionals, I am here today at age 73, I struggle with lifelong symptoms of agitated depression, but with loving support from family, friends and effective clinical therapy, I feel a peace of mind that everything is going to be okay.  I know now from receiving my medical records from that time that traumatic experiences from childhood years and as a young adult took its toll.  Even though my memory is lost from that time, my medical records show that W. F. Miner, LCDR. MC USN in May of 1965 was paying attention.  I am very thankful for Dr. Miner’s thorough evaluation and treatment to help me through a most critical and risky period in my life.

I found a couple of references to W. F. Miner USN.  His service to America and contributions as a mental health professional appear to be substantial.  He along with D. S. Burgoyne CDR MC USN, Psychiatrist, were both instrumental in my treatment and recovery.  I have a much better appreciation and gratitude for the US Navy mental health community after reviewing my medical records from long ago.  We hear mostly of the statistics presented in the above chart, but not always about the lives saved every day by caring mental health professionals everywhere.  I only wish I could find these two heroes from my US Navy experience and thank them personally for saving my life…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Mental Heath Advocate