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!
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
exaggerated startle response
problems with concentration
difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep
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.