“The Other Side” — video celebrates 50th anniversary of the Community Mental Health Act

The National Council posted this excellent video at the end of April. They describe it as an “evocative rendition of the journey from despair and loneliness to hope and community, as told by those who’ve recovered from mental illness and addictions.” Indeed it is.

The video describes two big shifts in mental health — the emphasis on recovery, and, instead of asking “What’s wrong with you?”, asking “What happened to you?”

The Council has posted a short history of the Community Mental Health Act on its site.

Important souls: Anna’s story a sad tale through an abusive mental health system

Anna Jennings was an artist who suffered trauma, including sexual abuse, as a child. When she entered the mental health system, she suffered further trauma at their hands. As the description on the YouTube page of this video says: Out of her tragic death, and the deaths and abuses of many other trauma survivors, rose a movement to transform all social service systems to be “trauma-informed.” Ann Jennings, her mother, was an integral part of that movement. Over the last 20 years, there’s been a huge push in social services agencies to “recognize trauma as central to the experience of the vast majority of people” who come to these agencies for help.

Twenty years ago, when Ann Jennings gave her first talk about her daughter’s experience and the paradigm shift that was needed in the field, it was to a group of 200 psychiatric nurses. Three-quarters of them walked out.

In an interview for a post about the history of the trauma-informed movement, which I’m working on now, Ann Jennings told me:  “You get killed if you’re the messenger.”

The thinking then was that only a few people who entered the mental health system had experienced childhood trauma; now it’s recognized that almost all do. “We have a punitive paradigm going in this country,” says Jennings. “It’s changing slowly, but it makes it very, very difficult to deal with things like addressing parents and families. We’re all at-risk families. It’s all over the place.”

The director of this video is Susan Salasin, another pioneer. During her 40 years with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, she led the emergence of the trauma-informed movement. She worked with Andy Blanch and Joan Gillece of NCTIC (National Center for Trauma Informed Care), and with Leah Harris of the National Empowerment Center to produce this video for the Harvard Program for Refugee Trauma.

Empathy…or “if we could see inside other people’s hearts” — a touching video

This touching video was put together by the Cleveland Clinic and posted as “Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care” on Feb. 27, 2013 on the clinic’s YouTube channel. (Everyone Matters wrapped their logo around it, gave it a catchier title — “If we could see inside other people’s hearts” and published on their YouTube channel on March 20.)

You could take this approach beyond the hospital setting to Anywhere, USA/Canada/Australia/Mexico/Kenya, etc. And you could place it in any school, mental health clinic, prison, court, social services waiting room, or workplace. It goes to the heart of the trauma-informed/resilience/compassion approach of asking: “What happened to you?”, not “What’s wrong with you?”

A woman once told me a story of how her world shifted after she learned about the CDC’s ACE Study, epidemiological research that revealed the link between childhood trauma and the adult onset of chronic disease, depression, violence and being a victim of violence. She said she never looked at homeless people the same again. Instead of regarding them as “lazy” and wondering why they just didn’t pull themselves together and get a job, she realized that they were survivors — just barely — of the worst things that people do to each other and systems do to people.

A community play called ZERO tips Sacramento, CA, into tackling school suspensions


(l to r) Crandal Rankins, Alise Guilford, Sophia Hicks, Roman Allen, Steven Daugherty, Spenser Bradley, Bahni Turpin


TRACY (student) – I was suspended for “willful defiance”.
MARTHA (James’ mother)- “Willful Defiance.” Isn’t that what you had last time?
JAMES — Uh huh.
MARTHA — What’s that mean?
JAMES — Everything.
TRACY — Anything.
    —  (ZERO, Act One, by Julie Marie Myatt)

Last August, Darryl White, president of the Black Parallel School Board walked onto the stage of Sacramento’s Guild Theater after Act One of ZERO, a play that’s part of the program, Talk It Out: A Community Conversation to Fix School Discipline.

Turning to the standing-room-only crowd, he asked: “How many people know someone who’s been suspended from school?”

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Nearly 35 million U.S. children have experienced one or more types of childhood trauma


Almost half the nation’s children have experienced at least one or more types of serious childhood trauma, according to a new survey on adverse childhood experiences by the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH). This translates into an estimated 34,825,978 children nationwide, say the researchers who analyzed the survey data.

Even more concerning, nearly a third of U.S. youth age 12-17 have experienced two or more types of childhood adversity that are likely to affect their physical and mental health as adults. Across the 50 U.S. states, the percentages range from 23 percent for New Jersey to 44.4 percent for Arizona.

The data are clear, says Dr. Christina Bethell: If more prevention, trauma-healing and resiliency training programs aren’t provided for children who have experienced trauma, and if our educational, juvenile

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Believing women and children

akidYears ago, when I began interviewing people at organizations that are using the results from the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study to change their practices, I talked with a representative of SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). She said a very interesting thing that stuck with me. The ACE Study, which published its first findings in 1998, confirmed what many people had already suspected or who believed “what women were telling us,” she said.

Women addicted to alcohol or other drugs and/or who had mental illness said that their problems originated in abuse they experienced as children.

“Consumers were coming into our system and telling us this,” said the SAMHSA rep. “I don’t know that they were heard.” The rates of trauma

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Trauma past and present, and how to move on from trauma in the future


Here are three articles that might be of interest, from separate parts of the country, but interconnected in the growing awareness of how to understand, treat and prevent trauma. The first story looks at how those who were traumatized passed their trauma on to their children. The second story looks at how children who have experienced adversity aren’t really incurable — people just haven’t figured out how to help them. And the third offers some ways to build resilience.

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Women — and men — increasing their rejection of domestic violence, study shows


Max Fisher put together this map in an article for the Washington Post that shows how more women across the world say that domestic violence is never okay, according to the results of a study in the American Sociological Review by Rachael S. Pierotti at the University of Michigan. Pierotti examined what women in 26 different countries thought about intimate partner violence. Those countries appear in the colored parts of the map above — the gray areas are countries that were not included in the study. Fisher’s overview:

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The school discipline gap, visually

Youth Radio created an infographic based on one of the new reports out of the UCLA Civil Rights Project — showing how just one suspension in the ninth grade can decrease a student’s chances of graduating.  Here’s a Huffington Post story about the report issued last month — School Discipline Gap Explodes as 1 in 4 Black Students Suspended, Report Finds, and my follow-up: With Thousands of Schools Curbing Suspensions, There’s No Excuse for the Discipline Gap.
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