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 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…
“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.”
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.
“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.”
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 email@example.com.
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.
“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.”
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!
“Child maltreatment has been called the tobacco industry of mental health. Much the way smoking directly causes or triggers predispositions for physical disease, early abuse may contribute to virtually all types of mental illness.”
“At the forefront is his father, the late Sen.Ted Kennedy, whom Patrick now believes suffered not only from a serious “drinking problem” but also from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder following the assassinations of brother and PresidentJohn F. Kennedyin 1963 and brotherRobert F. Kennedyin 1968.
Patrick goes on to paint a raw and unsettling portrait of his father, a man he says suffered “in silent desperation for much of his life, self-medicating and unwittingly passing his unprocessed trauma onto my sister, brother and me.”
I know something about a common struggle of “untreated post-traumatic stress!” Patrick Kennedy does too… Children growing up in a family affected by severe traumatic experiences, often take on the same mental health symptoms and behaviors as parents who struggle. Untreated PTSD is mostly hidden behind closed doors with family members getting the direct hit of the symptoms of self medication, anger, depression, panic attacks, including emotional and physical abuse. The toxic behaviors are mostly invisible outside of the home where parents who suffer can keep a safe distance from the pain of the past while becoming workaholics who self medicate with a good whiskey to keep calm. The false cover of calmness by day turns into a nightmare for family members during evening hours and on weekends as the trauma sufferer releases all the pent up anger connected with bottled up pain from the past and the sickness from a never ending hang over…
When I wrote my book many years after Dad passed away in 1998, my family members helped me with stories that were difficult to remember and to share with the world. But it was a most cathartic and healing experience that gave me and others who read my story a path to recovery, including peace of mind. When my book was published; however, family members became agitated and anxious, distancing themselves from me and our painful family story. There has never been any denial of the events described in my book since my siblings and mother helped me reconcile the stories and experiences showing a violent and toxic family life that drove us all away. We carried the emotional baggage with us and were consistently challenged in confronting something we did not understand until later in life. We acted out in our own ways to each other and our own family members with behaviors that added up to all the symptoms of post-traumatic stress, that all of us know much more about in the 21st century. Even though we know so much more, there is still denial and stigma keeping sufferers from seeking treatment and find the lasting peace of mind we all deserve.
I attempt to write in my latest book, My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 2, about how critical it is to seek treatment, if for no other reason than to save your children from suffering the same fate, and their children as well. PTSD is an inter-generational national mental health crisis that will take decades of awareness and treatment to cure from society. We have been a nation at war since the Civil War with families becoming embroiled in the symptoms of post trauma as a fact of life. It doesn’t have to be like bad genes that carry forward forever. I am encouraged and confident that someday, following my life-time, that PTSD will be in the history books and cut off at the pass eventually. We will become strong enough as compassionate human beings to address mental health needs effectively, starting with kids at an early age, without the stigma that holds us back today. I know we can do it, and the books written and on-going awareness efforts by those who have survived and thrived like Patrick J. Kennedy will help society heal in time. We must talk and write freely about mental health to each other and in public places so that it is as comfortable as talking about a cure for a common cold.
Following is an excerpt from my new book to be released soon…
“Stigma is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” they say… “After all the research and writing on the subject of PTS/PTSD, including this blog with close to 800 postings offering tons of information about my own experience, references and resources with the goal to help others, the human condition of STIGMA leaves me stone cold and in a quandary. It is clear that we should all seek treatment immediately following a moral injury and living with the awful symptoms of depression and anxiety, including panic attacks. But it would be dishonest for me to suggest to anyone who fears losing opportunities and dreams of career success, especially loving relationships and spiritual growth in life, to ever admit a mental health challenge.”
“Mental health stigma knows no bounds and is constantly on the move. It can catch you in the workplace or in the classroom. It can interfere with making friends and can even interfere with keeping friends. But since stigma has to begin with a negative attitude or prejudice, if we can lessen the prejudice, we should in theory be able to lessen the discrimination.
People fear what they don’t understand. And let’s face it, mental health has only recently begun to even be an acceptable topic of conversation. Unfortunately, for many, it is still a topic that sends shivers down spines but it doesn’t have to stay that way. By simply talking about it, we normalize it. I have a feeling that, eventually, people will start to understand.
I never told any friends, coworkers or even romantic partners that I had been hospitalized against my willfor over four months for drug-induced psychosis. I never told them that I was once again hospitalized for several months formajor depression. Why? Because of stigma.”
Memories are still vivid of a painful childhood growing up in a toxic home. I struggled and managed to thrive with the heavy burden of emotional baggage from the 1950’s and early 1960’s until much later in life. Why did I wait so long to confront my past? Fear and denial followed me from the very moment I learned in 1965 that a potential employer would not hire me because my U.S. Navy honorable discharge document (DD214) included a “code” indicating a less than stable mental health condition. I was labeled a risk at age 20 and it scared the hell out of me!
I am grateful now later in life to have been able to move on with another company in the telecommunications business and enjoyed a very successful and exciting career. I was able to complete my college education as well and eventually retired in 2002. I wonder why any young person with a mental health diagnosis would ever reveal their condition or seek treatment… Many of us who survive traumatic experiences in life, march on one day at a time for many years until we have the courage to start the process of healing or when it is safe. I took the safe route until age 64, and it was indeed painful journey…
“Stigma is a self fulfilling prophecy,” they say… It has been 4 years since publishing my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story. After all the research and writing on the subject of PTS/PTSD, including this blog with close to 800 postings offering tons of information about my own experience, references and resources with the goal to help others, the human condition of STIGMA leaves me stoned cold and in a quandary. It is clear that we should all seek treatment immediately following a moral injury and living with the awful symptoms of depression and anxiety, including panic attacks. But it would be dishonest for me to suggest to anyone who fears losing opportunities and dreams of career success, especially loving relationships and spiritual growth in life, to ever admit a mental health challenge.
I am still searching for the right answer to help younger people, especially those who served America in hard combat or as a first responder. My prayer and hope is that someday, probably not in my lifetime, that our culture and society will see that stigma is something from our distant past. I pray that the millions of children and families who suffer from mental illness will be treated without prejudice and will have no fear in seeking meaningful long term treatment and begin the journey of healing. No human being should have to carry forward the burden of an invisible and life threatening mental illness to one generation and the next. Lives are at risk while we come to terms with STIGMA…the Germanwings tragedy will haunt all of us forever. Will the lessons learned lead us to healing as a human society and diversified cultures or will it reinforce the fear and denial connected with mental health STIGMA?
“Just as President Kennedy rallied the nation to dream big and set audacious goals 50 years ago, The Kennedy Forum seeks to set a new standard for the future of health care in the United States.
Our mission is big, and the stakes are clear. We seek to unite the health care system, and rally the mental health community around a common set of principles: Fully implement the 2008 parity law, bring business leaders and government agencies together to eliminate issues of stigma, work with providers to guarantee equal access to care, ensure that policymakers have the tools they need to craft better policy, and give consumers a way to understand their rights.”
Mental Health is one of the State of Oregon’s key legislative initiatives for 2015. League of Oregon Cities Local Focus (click this site) magazine for December 2014 is dedicated to mental health…”can’t we do better?” On the agenda for our City of Depoe Bay Council Meeting on February 3rd is Mental Health…to start this important conversation in our rural community on the Central Oregon Coast. Communities everywhere are getting on the same page now and taking action…to find better ways to meet mental health challenges and improve services at the local level. Following is a summary of the key issues we are addressing in our communities…
December 2014On the Cover…Mental Health: Can’t we do better?
It’s Time to Bend the Trend
Forest Grove – Mental Health Crisis Straining Police Resources
Wallowa County – Isolation Impedes Proper Response, Care
Portland and Project Respond: A 22-Year Partnership
Boardman – Crisis Care in a Small Community
Bend – Trying to Keep Pace in Deschutes County
Jail Diversion: Better for Cities, Better for Counties, Better for Patients
Mental Health Services: How We Can Do More
Please take the time to catch up on the State of Mental Health in America from the Kennedy Forum webcast. Take a look at the Local Focus December 2014 magazine and learn more about specific challenges and opportunities for change in Oregon. I will be reporting on the progress we are making in Depoe Bay, Oregon going forward.
Mental Health will be a high priority for me as city councilor during my 4 year term. Our community will begin to seriously assess its needs and begin to collaborate with public private partnerships along with federal, state, and country resources to build a stronger foundation for mental health crisis treatment and referral services. Join your neighbors in supporting a stronger Mental Health agenda for your community. We can do better!
Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1… Click on the highlighted text for my author page…
Contrary to those with other chronic conditions like diabetes
and heart disease, people with chronic mental health and substance
use disorders have been criminalized. The difference is,
in part, that people with untreated mental illness may act in
ways that seem frightening or threatening to the general public.
According to the National GAINS Technical Assistance
and Policy Analysis (TAPA) Center for jail diversion, “when
effective treatment is available, people with mental disorders
and without substance use problems present no greater risk to
the community than people in the general population.”
This is my first posting as a newly elected Depoe Bay, Oregon, City Councilor. It is fitting and timely to use the League of Oregon Cities Local Focus publication, entitled Mental Health, Can’t we do better? as a reference.
I attended my first workshop in Manzanita, Oregon, this last week to receive training as a newly elected official. The training was very valuable as I hit the ground running. A big picture view of Oregon legislative priorities for 2015 was presented to help focus on the larger issues of our great State of Oregon, including mental health.
As a new Depoe Bay, Oregon City Councilor with a personal interest in mental health awareness. I am putting a special focus on this important topic during my term in office. Following are some of the actions we are taking in Oregon and in local communities like Depoe Bay to do more in providing improved mental health services.
Quote from page 29 of the referenced LOC Local Focus… • Preventative mental health care in the form of “drop-in” services should be available to all Oregonians regardless of where they live. The League believes that access to urgent care for mental health will allow those suffering from an illness or condition to be triaged and receive immediate treatment or where appropriate, referrals for treatment. This will avert unnecessary, unhealthful and sometimes tragic interactions with law enforcement personnel. • Proactive, mobile crisis intervention should be available statewide. The mobile crisis intervention approach has reduced negative encounters between police and the mentally ill. Resources should be provided so such services are available throughout the state. • Every police officer in the state of Oregon should have access to training in how to respond to a mental health crisis. The state should provide public safety personnel with access to instructions from mental health professionals that would equip officers with skills to respond in a way that de-escalates conflict and helps the affected individual and their family receive appropriate care. • The number of regional residential mental health facilities should be expanded. Jail should not be the only option to secure an individual experiencing a mental health crisis. Safe and secure mental health care beds will allow those in need to avoid jail, which could worsen their condition.
It is an honor for me to serve the citizens of greater Depoe Bay, Oregon for the next 4 years. As a rural community we have many challenges in community building and in sustaining the precious legacy of our town. We are also focused on economic development and providing state of the art infrastructure utilities and services.
In addition to my regular blog postings on the topic of Children and Families in Life After Trauma, I will be providing updates on more global mental health issues related to rural communities. I am grateful for the support of my community of friends, followers, and family who read this blog. Please share your comments at the end of this posting.
“I was easy prey…” click on highlighted website article by Ginger Kadlec… Quote from the article follows…
“He was close to my mother, he visited our family home,”Susan Crocombe recalls in an interview withSteve Harris of BBC Radio Solent’sBreakfast in Dorset 103.8 fm. “If mum was having a bad day, she would be in bed… so he had complete access to me. I actually loved him. I would have done anything for him.”
“He” was a member of Susan’s extended family who sexually abused her for years. She recalls, “Things he did became quite serious 18 months leading up to my 13th birthday,” at which point her molester began feeding his addiction by sharing her with other adults, including taking photographs of and filming her.
“I associated presents with rewards for being good. I was easy prey.”~Susan Crocombe
In thisBBC Radio Solent interview, Susan reflects on the sexual abuse she endured as a child and the impact the abuse had on her as a teenager and adult. She discusses issues like being groomed and says, “Who doesn’t like to feel special to get gifts, presents, be validated? For me, it was very subtle. I was very young, so I didn’t know what was happening was wrong… I associated presents with rewards for being good. I was easy prey.”
In my view, the above reference is absolutely the worst case scenario and tragedy connected with domestic violence and child abuse! I lived in a highly toxic home while growing up in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. The vivid memories of being scared and living with domestic violence still haunts me at times. My home was affected by the hard combat trauma my father experienced during all of WWII and deployment during the Korean War. We did not have any kind of domestic violence awareness during the post WWII era…let alone a month like October designated to help children and families become more aware of its seriousness, long term impact on mental health, and ways to get help. We siblings, as military kids, felt scared and alone most of the time. We were afraid to go home when Dad was home for fear of the next beating that could come our way or the threatening emotional outbursts that often came out of nowhere as Dad struggled with his own demons. Mother was affected severely as a wartime military spouse and from her own traumatic childhood during the “depression era.” Our entire family was emotionally damaged and we thought it was just normal and mostly our fault as kids for not being good. What happened in our home stayed at home. From all appearances our family behaved as normal adults and kids outside of the home and in school. We would not dare speak of being scared to go home… Dad was a WWII US Navy hero by day and an angry and dangerous man by night.
Thousands of families were toxic like ours during this post WWII era, but we didn’t know it until later in life when the topic of combat related PTSD was finally revealed and understood more clearly. But the stigma of mental health challenges and the intergenerational effects of post trauma symptoms referred to as secondary PTSD or complex PTSD kept countless children and families from seeking help. The stigma of PTSD remains a big challenge to this day!
I lived with the emotional baggage of child abuse and domestic violence until later in life while doing research on our post WWII family’s toxic culture and the how war affects the mental health of soldiers and sailors long after the war ends. Writing my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, was finally the beginning of my own journey of healing at age 64, and I am not alone… If it had not been for the gift of awareness, I would still be living with emotional pain. It is a joy to look forward to each day now with peace of mind. The anger, depression, and anxiety tearing away at my heart and soul is now gone, but is a work in progress to keep the pain of past trauma at a safe distance. I am very blessed and thankful for the work of Ginger Kadlec and many others in the mental health community for building awareness through social media. I am also grateful for the support of my family and friends who help keep me grounded with positive energy each and every day…
Breakaway Patriot- “The Homecoming” Click highlighted text for video clip documentary…interviews with warriors…
Short Summary… Quoted from website…
“2 million men and women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. When these men and women come home, they’re integrated into society with broken lenses. The average age of today’s veteran is 22 years young. Most of these men and women were fighting in a war before they were even allowed to drink a beer in their own country. Our video will feature actual veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. They will be displaying customized messages straight from their hearts throughout the video.”
The combat veteran’s homecoming can be highly painful, and mostly invisible to others. Veterans often suffer in silence. Warriors, including family members, do not always understand or are in denial of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS). Many veterans do not share their pain or admit to being diagnosed with PTSD for fear that the stigma of a mental health issue will keep them from getting a job or they are simply proud veterans and do not want to show weakness. As a US Navy veteran from the Vietnam era, I was diagnosed with a non-combat related mental health disability resulting from growing up in a toxic home as a post WWII military child. Children and families of warriors can suffer right along with a returning soldier struggling with readjustment and PTSD, and take on the same symptoms referred to as secondary PTSD or complex PTSD. The compounded symptomatic conditions of life after trauma on family members has created a epidemic of post war trauma sufferers and survivors in America and around the globe. It is critical for combat veterans and their loved loves to be aware on the consequences of not seeking treatment or being in denial.
Alternative treatment strategies such as mindfulness or meditation techniques vs. prescription drugs and alcohol, are proving to be highly effective when treatment becomes a way of life and a journey of healing. Healing from PTSD is often a work in progress that can last a lifetime… On-going treatment strategies for the family as a whole can be very beneficial and offer relief and peace of mind from the horrors of war and the post war trauma connected with PTSD as it affects the entire family.
The included music production and video documentary of veteran interviews is a way to offer trauma victims more awareness and encourages treatment sooner than later. Listen to the music and hear from selected warriors in the documentary to help you and your family find your own path of healing from the challenges in life after war and readjustment.