April Is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

How the Effects of Child Abuse Have Become the Biggest Public Health Issue in America

www.psychotherapynetworker.org
Mary Sykes Wylie

Since the publication of DSM-IV in 1994, a massive body of neurobiological research has accumulated revealing how protracted childhood abuse and neglect can cause pervasive, devastating, and lasting biological and psychological harm, not unlike patients with a PTSD diagnosis.

Researchers in developmental psychopathology have shown that childhood maltreatment and neglect are associated with structural and functional abnormalities in different brain areas, including the:

  • Pre-frontal cortex (logic and reasoning)
  • Corpus callosum (integrating the right and left hemisphere)
  • Amygdala (fear and facial recognition)
  • Temporal lobe (hearing, verbal memory, language function)
  • Hippocampus (memory)

These effects of child abuse may help explain why abused children are quicker to recognize and stare at angry faces than non-abused kids, and why they pick up anger even in faces with ambiguous expressions, while missing other emotions.

Abuse also disrupts the neuroendocrine system, altering the production of the stress-regulating hormone cortisol and neurotransmitters like epinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin—chemicals affecting mood and behavior.

Chronic trauma weakens the immune system and sets up children for illness far down the road. For example, the Centers for Disease Control reported that one of the effects of child abuse is that trauma’s disruption of cortisol levels leaves abused children vulnerable to chronic fatigue syndrome later in life.

Some of the most astonishing and far-reaching evidence for the lifelong and malign repercussions of childhood trauma has come not from the mental health field, but from the study of epidemiology. In 1995, internist Vincent Felitti, a preventative medicine specialist with California-based HMO Kaiser Permanente, and Robert Anda, and epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control, began the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study to track the relationship between childhood maltreatment, neglect, and other family loss or dysfunction and adult mental and physical health.

This unprecedented study found that a majority of the participants surveyed had experienced some form of serious family dysfunction, neglect, and emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse. Not only that, but the studies showed direct correlations with these “adverse experiences” and a remarkably large proportion of all the physical, mental, and social ills that beset society.

It’s by now glaringly obvious to mental health professionals that some of the effects of child abuse are the significantly increased risk for mental and emotional disorders—and associated risks for alcoholism, drug abuse, and smoking—though the ACE Studies nail the case beyond denial.

But who knew that childhood adversity was a major risk factor for many of society’s most prevalent biomedical illnesses and causes of death—for example, heart and lung disease, diabetes, liver and kidney disease, some cancers, sexually transmitted diseases, and autoimmune diseases? Or that being abused or neglected as a child increased the likelihood of being arrested as a juvenile by 59%, as an adult by 28%, and for committing violent crime by 30%?

In conservative estimates, the total direct and indirect costs of the effects of child abuse amounted to $103 billion in 2007. These costs include:

  • Hospitalization and mental health care for children
  • Increased health care costs for adults who were abused as children
  • Child welfare services
  • Law enforcement
  • Special education
  • Juvenile justice system
  • Criminal justice system
  • Lost productivity

In light of all this, it’s been asserted that child abuse is the largest single public health issue in America.

This article is reprinted with permission from the American Society for the Positive Care of Children (SPCC) and the author.

Childhood Trauma and Substance Abuse

I received this article from DrugRehab.com today about childhood trauma and substance abuse. I thought my readers who were abused as children would find this information helpful. Please remember that the connection between trauma and illness is a vicious cycle. It becomes even more deadly if you use alcohol or drugs to cope with your unresolved trauma issues. Get help immediately.

I want to thank Trey Dyer for writing this enlightening article.

Childhood Trauma and Substance Abuse

Adults aren’t the only group that lives with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Children also experience trauma at high rates. Many adolescents suffering from PTSD turn to drugs to numb the physical, emotional and psychological pain of trauma.

Childhood PTSD

Anywhere from 15 to 43 percent of girls and 14 to 43 percent of boys in the United States experience a traumatic event, per the National Center for PTSD. Among this group, up to 15 percent of girls and up to 6 percent of boys have PTSD. Children who experience traumatic events grapple with a swirl of emotions. For example, sexually abused children often exhibit fear, worry, sadness and anger. They may also feel isolated or as though people are looking down on them. This can cause low self-esteem and an inability to trust others.

Risk Factors for PTSD in Children

RISK FACTORS FOR PTSD IN CHILDREN

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects children in different ways. The more traumas a child experiences, the more likely he or she is to develop PTSD. Children and teens who go through intense traumas have the highest levels of PTSD symptoms.

Children ages 5–12 often do not have flashbacks or difficulties remembering their traumatic experience. Instead, they think there were signs that foretold the trauma and believe these signs may show up again. As a result, they stay cognizant of their surroundings to avoid future trauma.

Young children may also show signs of trauma in their play. For example, children who survive a school shooting may gravitate toward video games that involve shooting. They may even carry a gun to school themselves.

A teen may endure traumatic events, such as physical abuse, sexual assault, vehicular accidents or cyberbullying. Symptoms of PTSD among children ages 12–18 are similar to those found in many adults: aggressive behaviors, mood swings and isolation. Teens with PTSD may also self-harm or exhibit promiscuous behavior.

Substance Abuse as a Coping Mechanism

Looking for an outlet, many adolescents with PTSD turn to drugs or alcohol.

Overall, 25 percent of physically assaulted or abused teens reported lifetime substance abuse or dependence, per the survey.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice

According to a survey by the U.S. Department of Justice, 17 percent of boys who witnessed violence reported substance abuse or dependency. This statistic was similar to that of girls who witnessed violence.

The survey also found that 27.5 percent of sexually assaulted girls reported substance abuse or dependence in their lifetime. Among sexually assaulted boys, the number was 34.4 percent. Many of these children went on to commit delinquent acts, such as robbery or aggravated assault.

Overall, 25 percent of physically assaulted or abused teens reported lifetime substance abuse or dependence, per the survey.

A 2010 study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors found that PTSD contributes to the development of marijuana abuse or dependence among adolescents.

Another study, published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, found that PTSD led to alcohol, cocaine and marijuana use. The study found that levels of physical, sexual and emotional abuse in children were strongly associated with cocaine use later in life.

Remember to “never give up” on your journey to be healed from unresolved trauma.

Alex Acker-Halbur

Resources for Trauma Healing

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting two authors who have written books about how they survived trauma. Their books are “true story memoirs” that beautifully illustrate the resilience of how to cope with trauma and survive. These are amazing stories written by amazing women. I encourage you to read their books to gain healing tips on how to resolve unresolved trauma.

Then I Am Strong: Moving From My Mother’s Daughter to God’s Child
by Meg Blaine Corrigan

Meg Blaine Corrigan has overcome longstanding emotional and physical pain. Her distress deepened after she was raped when she was in her 20s . . . and advised to just “forget” the experience. This story is an insightful, humorous, and courageous look at the life of one girl growing up in a profoundly volatile family — an alcoholic mother, codependent father, and over-conscientious sister — as they live in the shadow of the bottle.

 

Untangled: A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph
by Alexis Rose

This is the story of facing the truth and risking the consequences of breaking the silence of inter-generational ritualistic abuse and mind control programming. Through years of self-exploration, Alexis Rose learned to accept the effects of the trauma that echoes through her daily life as PTSD. Ultimately, this book is about resilience; hope for victims who have suffered trauma and for the people who support them.

 

If I Could Tell You How It Feels: My Life Journey with PTSD
by Alexis Rose, Art by Janet Rosauer

This book is a series of essays and poems about living authentically with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Alexis Rose takes us on a journey into the reality of living with triggers, flashbacks, and the challenges of working through trauma. Rose writes with intimate vulnerability about the tough subjects of family, friendships, loss, grief, parenting, and therapy.

 

These books are “must reads” and I encourage you to hear how difficult, yet enlightening, true healing can feel.

Never Give Up!

Time’s Up!

The recent plea for Oprah Winfrey to run for president in 2020 is an insightful look into how we, as Americans, are so hungry for a president who can communicate clearly and without blame or shame. Someone who will raise us up in difficult times and voice our current state of dismay. Oprah’s words at the Golden Globes last Sunday night were more than inspiring — they need to be shared across our country. We NEED to hear that “Time’s Up” on sexual assault and harassment. No more secrecy, let’s bring those who prey on women, girls, and boys to justice!

But it takes more than words to eliminate the crimes of powerful people. It takes a movement where we join our hands together in solidarity and shout out that it’s not okay to hurt others. It’s time for us to vote for politicians who are outraged by the disarray of our country. Politicians who believe in women’s stories and a justice system who punishes criminals and not victims. The #metoo movement has started but we need to keep it going. We need to be LOUD to make our voices heard. And we must stop electing politicians who have dark and evil private lives.

I HATE listening to the news, I HATE reading the newspaper, and I HATE watching TV where women are called “ineffective,” “liars,” and “whores.” It’s time for men to stop hating women for the gifts we bring to our country and our world. Name calling and sexual harassment are not ways to achieve respect and dignity. They are only ways to lose it.

I say this to power-hungry men: you don’t own me, you can’t tell me how to dress or how to act, you can’t say I must be silent, you can’t touch my body anytime you want, you have no control over my life, you have no right to spit in my face, you have no authority to tell me who I can marry, and, most of all, YOU ARE NOT GOD!

I just had to say this because “it’s time!”

Never, ever give up.

Alexis Acker-Halbur

Emotional Trauma’s Root: The Lie or Misbelief

When I was a child my parents said they loved me and would protect me — it’s what all parents should tell and show their children. Unfortunately, the statistics show a different story: Millions of children are reported as abused and neglected every year.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15193530

I believe that at the root of emotional trauma there’s a lie or misbelief. Either the parents lie, or children are led to believe something that isn’t the truth. Saying one thing and doing another is a critical mistake in the human psyche. How many of us have heard the adage: “actions speak louder than words?” If you tell a child that he/she will be protected, yet turn around and physically or sexually abuse them, this psychological trauma becomes part of who they are. Time doesn’t heal emotional abuse on its own.

“People tend to have the most difficulty healing from trauma deliberately caused by others. The most serious and difficult to treat trauma occurs when violence or emotional wounds are inflicted by a person on whom the victim is dependent (i.e., a parent-child relationship).” To cope with the trauma, many people turn to substance abuse, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, and PTSD, or develop a personality disorder. http://www.activebeat.com/your-health/8-distressing-facts-on-emotional-trauma/8/

Wikipedia defines a lie as “a statement that is known or intended by its source to be misleading, inaccurate, or false.” We’ve all told “little white lies” in our lives, but to tell a child that you love her/him and then physically harm them is nothing but cruel and damaging.

We’ve called out the Catholic Church for it’s lying about priests abusing boys; we’re now calling out powerful men in the media, entertainment field, work place, and politics to stop lying about sexually harassing and assaulting women. NOW is the time to stop the lying about abusing our children and make it a criminal offense to emotionally, physically, psychologically, and spiritually harm children. It’s not a secret anymore!

“We must learn to recognize early signs of abuse in order to help save the 5 children that die every day from child abuse and neglect.” https://www.childhelp.org/child-abuse-statistics/ Don’t lie to your children. Show them what true love is all about.

NEVER GIVE UP!

Mother Nature Is Seriously Pissed

Mudslides in India; wild fires in California; hurricanes in Texas, Puerto Rico and Florida; earthquakes in Mexico City — if I didn’t know better I would think that Mother Nature is seriously pissed at us. She’s blowing steam and is rattling the Earth. Who can blame her? And then, Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the Green Bay Packers broke his collarbone when Vikings player Anthony Barr took (in my opinion) a vicious hit on an unprotected quarterback.

What’s going on in our world today?

News about devastation and cruelty are happening every second. I went away to Portugal for two weeks to escape the insanity. I didn’t want to read the newspapers, listen to radio programs, watch TED talks, or even have conversations with friends. Bad news is everywhere and I just wanted two weeks of peace and relaxation. I did find it in Porto, Lisbon,  and Luz, Portugal. There were sunny days, trips to ancient Roman ruins, boat trips down the rivers dividing steep mountains with vineyards growing on the terraces, yummy food, and friendly people. Mother Nature was there, too, enjoying an unusual heat wave. I could feel her presence in the wild ocean currents, the colorful volcanic rock, the strong winds blowing off Cape St. Vincent, and the glorious sunset on the south westernmost point of Portugal — forming the end of the European Coastal Path. (Okay, I got that last part from a description in a brochure I purchased at the Cape’s  gift store.) I love to travel and see new sights and experience new cultures.

I came home from all that relaxation with a terrible cold along with jet lag and I was down for 16 days. Hmm, 12 days of vacation followed by 16 days of fevers, chills, nasal distress, and coughing non-stop. But the memories I have of our trip will last with me for a long, long time.

If the world has got you down in the dumps, I recommend a trip to Portugal to unwind and refresh. Their Sangrias are out-of-this world! I found true happiness in this wonderful country.

Never ever give up!!!

Finding an Answer to Cancer

This past  Saturday, August 19th I had the pleasure of volunteering for the Forest Lake Relay For Life event. My wife Rita and I have been Relay volunteers for 10 years since my diagnosis of Stage IV colon cancer — twice! This is an event near and dear to my heart because my mother, many relatives, and friends have fought cancer battles — many have died and many more are still alive today. There’s still no cure(s) for the over 200 types of cancer. Jaelynn Parenteau (first photo) was our guest survivor speaker. She’s 17 years old and has been on a cancer journey for one year now. It breaks my heart that someone so young has to deal with cancer. She’s a super courageous survivor and I was honored to introduce her at the Survivor Celebration (second photo).

Our five teams raised $56,000 this year!

Typical me, I tried to find a survivor poem to share at the Survivor Celebration, but unable to find one, I wrote a poem instead. I’d like to share it with you and all the cancer survivors who are faced with cancer.

I Survived

Cancer came at me like a monster, and I shook with anger and fear.
I didn’t know where I was headed, but I knew my death was near.

I prayed to the Heavens to heal me, and the sky sent me a beam.
I knew I’d strive to walk again, and reach my cherished dream.

But the journey was difficult, and took away my breath.
I was taught how to live, but knew nothing of fighting death.

My body was weak, my mind a mess, my spirit took a dive.
You helped me confront my fears, and made me feel alive.

I’m proud to be called a survivor, and glad the worst is gone.
Healing is a miracle, like the sunset and early dawn.

Say a prayer for those who walk this day, arm-in-arm with cancer.
Show us how to fight for life, and help us find the answer.

Alexis Acker-Halbur
August 16, 2017
__________________________________________

If you are fighting a cancer battle, please remember that you have the strength and courage to fight this monster. It’s difficult to want to keep living after all the surgeries, radiation treatments, and chemo sessions, but your desire to live is stronger than cancer. My motto is “Never Give Up” and I believe this should be every cancer survivor’s motto as well.

Let me know what you think about my poem.

Alex Acker-Halbur

Don’t Be Fooled: It’s Not Health Care — It’s Death Care

DO NO HARM!

Have you read the June 2017 AARP article? Find Out Who Voted For The Health Care Bill: AARP opposes act it calls an “age tax” on Older Americans. If you missed it, it was a stunning article that affects ALL the baby boomers. Here’s what it said:

“The U.S. House of Representatives on May 4 passed the American Health Care Act by a razor-thin margin: 217 to 3213. It includes an “age tax” that AARP says would add as much as $13,000 to the cost of insurance for those 50 to 64, and would discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions such as cancer and diabetes. What’s more, we believe it would cause millions of Americans to lose coverage and put Medicare in worse financial shape.”

This isn’t health care — this is death care! Especially for people like me who have diabetes and cancer. I want to thank the 217 representatives who’ve voted for my death! That’s right folks, those Republican representatives who you voted in last year are calling the shots and they want those of us with diabetes and cancer to ill-afford treatment and medications and, ultimately, die. They’re playing “God” with our health care and I can think of no greater sin than taking the lives of others. Doesn’t world history hold numerous stories of the destruction of humans by the millions? Why do we keep making the same mistakes over and over again? I’ve tried to stay out of politics in this blog but, day after day, I’m inundated with news like this that really frightens me. I know many people with diabetes and cancer, some are close friends, and all are at-risk because of our current legislation.

DO YOU CARE THAT THIS IS HAPPENING? If so, I really want to know how you’re really feeling about this American Death Care Act? 

Don’t be fooled into thinking this type of health care is great because it isn’t health care at all — history calls it GENOCIDE — the systematic killing of, or a program intended to destroy those of us who are sick and ill!

Bless us all!

Never Give Up!

 

Betsy DeVos Is Okay With Schools Banning LGBT Students

This article appeared in Psychology Today on May 25, 2017. I’m so sad to see such disrespect for LGBT children. A variety of studies indicate that LGB youth are nearly one and a half to three times more likely to have reported suicidal ideation than non-LGB youth. Research from several sources also revealed that LGB youth are nearly one and a half to seven times more likely than non-LGB youth to have reported attempting suicide. These studies do not include transgender youth. [Source: http://www.sprc.org/sites/default/files/migrate/library/SPRC_LGBT_Youth.pdf]

Betsy DeVos needs to be educated on LGBT issues!

Here’s the article:

Version:1.0 StartHTML:000000272 EndHTML:000056970 StartFragment:000042700 EndFragment:000056926 StartSelection:000042738 EndSelection:000056880 SourceURL:https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/political-minds/201705/betsy-devos-is-okay-schools-banning-lgbt-studentsBetsy DeVos Is Okay With Schools Banning LGBT Students | Psychology Today 

Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons
Source: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

Gay and transgender students are commonly victims of harassment and bullying in school. Studies have estimated that as many as  80 percent  of transgender youth (link is external) experience bullying, and this mistreatment is one of the greatest predictors (link is external) of behavioral and emotional problems among these kids. 82 percent  of gay and lesbian students (link is external) report similar bullying. 31 percent  of LGBT students (link is external)  say  that their schools do nothing about it.

The U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos also plans to do nothing, when it comes to anti-LGBT policies in schools receiving federal funding. During yesterday’s Congressional testimony, US Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Massachusetts) asked DeVos about Indiana’s  Lighthouse Christian Academy. The school receives over $665,000 in school vouchers. The school also states (link is external)  in its handbook  that if a student is from a home  in which a “homosexual lifestyle” or “alternate gender identity” is practiced,  that the student can be denied admission or expelled.

Rep. Clark then asked Secretary DeVos if she would step in and require the school to eliminate its discriminatory policy in order to receive federal funding. After several attempts to avoid the question, DeVos ultimately answered that she would not. A video of her testimony is available here (link is external).

Pediatricians, psychiatrists, and psychologists (with a few extreme exceptions) have been working tirelessly to improve the health of LGBT youth. They  have spent countless hours working with schools to make them safer for these students. As school climates improved, we started to see students thrive. One transgender 13-year-old girl (link is external) I worked with has straight A’s, was in her school play, and is already thinking about college. Gay and lesbian students are valedictorians, varsity team captains, and class presidents.

If we’ve learned one thing about LGBT youth, it’s that when we take away the bullying and rejection, these kids succeed. The Lighthouse Academy, by refusing to accept these students, is bullying and rejecting. It is the job of the Secretary of Education to do everything she can to end this bullying so that these students can thrive. Secretary DeVos refuses to accept this responsibility.

We know that when a family rejects a child’s LGBT identity, it can increase the risk of suicide almost 20 (link is external) percent. I’m afraid of what will happen when the head of our national’s education system does the same.

Jack Turban’s writing on  neuroscience  and children’s mental health has appeared in  The New York Times, Scientific American, The Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, and Kevin MD  among others. Find him on  Twitter  @jack_turban or online at jackturban.com. 

 

PLEASE never give up on educating our educators!

A Message About Mammograms

 

What’s a garage door have to do with mammograms? Women know!

What happened recently is soooooo Alex! I went in to have my annual mammogram and four weeks later I had a partial mastectomy. WHAT! Yes, and that’s why I’m sending this message to all of you who have not scheduled your mammos. Breast cancer is so sneaky. It can hide in the breast tissue and go undetected for months if not years. In fact, a woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. I lost my mother to breast cancer many years ago. I know Mom was in the operating room with me holding my hand.

 

Genetics do play a huge role in breast cancer, but environment factors also contribute to the number of breast cancer patients.

For some silly reason I thought that because I had Stage IV colon cancer twice that I would be free from breast cancer. Don’t make this terrible mistake. Another interesting fact says: as of March 2017, there were about 3.1 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S. This figure includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment. That’s just too many women fighting breast cancer.

A male friend asked me awhile ago to describe a mammogram. My answer was this: mammos are like lying on your garage floor and having the garage door come down on your breasts — one at a time! But like colonoscopies, mammograms are needed to stay healthy. So, if you haven’t had your annual mammogram please schedule it soon. It could save your life.

In my book, Never Give Up: Break the Connection Between Stress and Illness, I make the point that stress from unresolved trauma can make us sick. I admit that the past several months have been highly stressful and I turned to food to medicate me. The result is that I had to have surgery and I’m way overweight. It’s time to follow my own advice and get on a healing journey again.

Please! Don’t ever give up!