Tag Archives: #childrenfamilieslifeaftertrauma

Why Talking About Mental Health Matters…to me…

Matters

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)

 

 

May…Mental Health Awareness Month…Help Stamp Out Stigma!

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Light a candle!

Mental Health Awareness…Stop Stigma! from NAMI…

“During the month of May, NAMI and participants across the country are bringing awareness to mental health. Each year we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care. Each year, the movement grows stronger.

We believe that these issues are important to address all year round, but highlighting these issues during May provides a time for people to come together and display the passion and strength of those working to improve the lives of all Americans whose lives are affected by mental health conditions.

1 in 5 Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime and every American is affected or impacted through their friends and family and can do something to help others.”

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My first shocking experience with mental health stigma as an adult happened shortly after honorably separating from the US Navy in September 1965.  It was in that moment that my world as a young adult with a bright future was seriously threatened.  Following a very productive and exciting interview process with a Fortune 100 company in Los Angeles, I fully expected an offer for employment as an apprentice teleprinter technician.  I felt grateful for the excellent training and experience received in the Navy as a radioman.  But all the excitement and hope for a career in telecommunications came to a shocking halt when the HR recruiter told me…”even though my qualifications exceeded minimum requirements I could not be hired.”  I thought with complete dispair, “how could this be?”  It was at that moment, the HR recruiter revealed to me that my hospitalization for severe depression and anxiety while serving in the US Navy was considered a risk. It was then that I decided to never ever speak of my mental health diagnosis…my secret, forever put away in a box and out of reach.  This was stigma then, it is still stigma in the 21st Century.  (Note: I was fortunate to receive a job offer from another respectable telecom company and started my career.)

We can all do so much more to stamp out stigma. Please help make a difference by taking quality time to talk openly and honestly with friends and family about mental health. Awareness is the first step in healing invisible wounds.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma Part1&2… click book links on the side bar to order Amazon.com 

Steve2016

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate

 

 

 

Pain Killers and OPIOIDS Kill! Estimated 28,000 People Die Annually in America! Combat vets at high risk…

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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 antipsychotic 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, Part1&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

Memorial Day 2016…The Children & Families of America’s Armed Forces…

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“Saving your children, family and loved ones from intergenerational Post Trauma Stress (PTS)…”

“Let’s raise children who won’t have to recover from their childhoods.” ~Pam Leo

Following is an excerpt from my new book released for the 70th Anniversary of the End of WWII…

Chapters

  1. The Wrath of Stigma
  2. Local Community, Partnerships, and Responsibility
  3. Parents, Teachers, and Mentors
  4. Teaching Kids Empathy & Compassion…The dangers of emotional numbness & denial…
  5. How Does Moral Injury Damage Human Spirituality and the Soul?
  6. Museum of the American Military Family…Albuquerque, New Mexico
  7. Romance and Adventure with my Soulmate

 

Introduction

It has been almost 5 years since publishing my first non-fiction book, Reconciliation:  A Son’s Story, November 2011.   My personal path of healing and mitigation of the “chain and ball” of life-long symptoms of anxiety and depression, takes me back to children living and growing up in a toxic home.   The ideal time to save kids from the emotional baggage carried forward as a result of child abuse and maltreatment connected with toxic parenting is from the very beginning.  When parents become abundantly aware of how their parenting behaviors affect children and the detrimental life-long damage of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), they often become highly motivated to get help for themselves to save the kids if for nothing else.

Healing is about making a difference for others.  In the case of denial and ignorance on the part of parents who suffer from PTS, outrageous behaviors and angry outbursts, including physical abuse toward family members and loved ones, especially children, is common.  It’s too easy to pick on the loved ones in your life as a way to vent, but it is not always clear how much emotional damage is being done.  If parents knew the consequences of intergenerational PTS by inflicting emotional and physical pain onto children and family members, they would march down to the nearest alternative treatment center immediately and learn how to mitigate the symptoms effectively and begin the journey of healing.  In my experience and view, there would be no hesitation on the part of parents and adults if they had a high level of awareness.  We could eventually break the intergenerational cycle of pain in a couple of decades if we started with our own kids very early.  It is proven that even babies will pick up on toxic circumstances and behaviors and show symptoms of PTS as they become older.

The goal of My Journey of Healing, Part 2 is to specifically help parents with stress triggers to save their kids from becoming emotionally damaged during these critical years from birth to age 18.  Most of the content comes from my own research, resources, references, and experience as a survivor of child abuse and maltreatment.  Since publishing my first book, I have kept up writing consistently on my blog and website www.survivethriveptsd.com.  I will use my blog as the primary reference point since it focuses almost completely on children and families in life after trauma.  I have been writing on this subject for a long time.  It is now the right time to consolidate and integrate all the postings into a single reference book designed as a guide for parents who are survivors of traumatic life events, including hard combat as a warrior, sole survivors of an accident, and victims of assault and rape.  The painful symptoms of PTS can take on a life of their own if not treated effectively.  More importantly, the symptoms will have a consequential secondary effect on loved ones and children in particular.  Parents are solely responsible for protecting their children and will be highly motivated to do so once understanding the terrible consequences of exposing children to a home culture affected by life after trauma.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1… Click highlighted text for my author page.

Steve2016

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

 

Post-Trauma Growth Awareness Month of June… My own journey of healing…

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“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after someone goes through a traumatic event like combat, assault, or disaster. Most people have some stress reactions after a trauma. If the reactions don’t go away over time or disrupt your life, you may have PTSD.”

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Returning home from war… click this link…

What is PTSD?   National Center for PTSD June 2016

The goal of my book and this blog since the beginning has been to raise awareness of PTSD.  I spent the first 64 years of my life not knowing about moral injury and combat stress, especially how it affects the families of warriors returning home.  During my childhood we lived in a chaotic and abusive home.  Even after leaving home, it appeared convenient to push all the bad stuff under the rug and move on. For so many years there was a knot in my stomach that never went away.  I always felt troubled emotionally, but never understood why… I used intense exercise, adventure, and my professional life to channel all this hyper-vigilance and anxiety.  My home life was the most challenging when there was a little free time on my hands.  With the help of my courageous and devoted wife I took small steps over the years to rid myself of anxiety and depression, but never knew or understood the root cause.  It was following retirement that, with continued support from loved ones and friends, it became more urgent to revisit my childhood and early adulthood to put my own life experiences in perspective.

Since researching and publishing my book in November 2011, my life has been transformed.  I no longer have a knot in my stomach and there is  very little anger left in my heart.  Much of my time, in these joyful later years in life, is spent helping others and making a difference in my community as a major part of my own journey of healing.  It is in the spirit of my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, and writing this blog daily that my goal is to help others take the first step toward healing by becoming aware of moral injury and PTSD.  Please take some quality time this month and learn more about PTSD.  Then start your own conversation with others and perhaps your own journey of healing.  It is not easy, and continues to be a work in progress.  For me, it has been worth all the sweat equity and time ten fold to finally have peace of mind.  My life has been transformed and each day is now a blessing and full of promise for the future…

Be well and help others who suffer from post-trauma stress, especially the children and families who are the caregivers of our heroes both military and 1st responders.

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

P.S. Take a look at these helpful ideas below from the National Center for PTSD.

Do you think treatment is only for people with extreme problems? Have you ever felt that you just don’t have time for treatment with all the other things in your life? The truth is that trauma can happen to anyone, and getting help is taking a step forward, not weakness. Making PTSD treatment a priority will help you get back control of your life.
This week’s step challenges you to think about all the benefits of getting help for PTSD, supporting someone in treatment, or learning how to offer the best care for your clients.

  • Meet Veterans who faced PTSD and turned their lives around at AboutFace.
  • VA providers can use the VA PTSD Consultation Program to get peer support for clinical practice, assessment, improving care, or programmatic issues.

Take the Step: Explore the options.

What can you do if you need help for PTSD? Whether you are learning to manage your own symptoms or you are a caregiver looking for resources, you have options. The steps you take to get care should be the ones that are best for you.
This week’s step gives you information about options for care and support resources to help you make the best choices for yourself or your clients.