Battle Creek Enquirer recently published an article by Erv Brinker, CEO of Summit Pointe in Battle Creek, Michigan, and board member for the Mental Health Corporations of America. In his article, Brinker states that “Research is now showing that when an individual experiences a traumatic event — regardless of its magnitude or severity — it can trigger a life-altering response that affects a person’s coping skills, behaviors and overall mental health throughout their lifetime.”
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMSA), “Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.”
Brinker goes on to explain why an event may be perceived as traumatic for one person and not another. He states, “How the individual labels, assigns meaning to, and is disrupted physically and psychologically by an event will determine whether or not it is experienced as traumatic. In many situations, a sense of humiliation, betrayal, or silencing often shapes the experience of the event.” In other words, trauma is a highly personal event and consists of both physical and emotional components.
In our perspective on PTSD, we need to stop asking “What is wrong with you?” and begin asking “What happened to you?”
This paradigm shift encapsulates the mission of PTSDPerspectives.org and our goal of helping professionals understand what PTSD looks like and feels like to those who live with its symptoms.
Kaiser Permanente and The Centers for Disease Control participated in a study titled The Relationship of Adverse Childhood Experiences to Adult Health Status. This largest study of its kind examined the health and social effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) of nearly 18,000 participants. ACEs were divided into two categories: abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, physical neglect and emotional neglect), and household (mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, parental separation/divorce, incarceration). Participants were asked to give each a score of one point per category and add the categories to obtain a Total ACE score.
The study also showed that the higher the ACE score, the more likely a person is to develop heart disease, pulmonary disease, hepatitis, diabetes, obesity and sexually transmitted diseases. The higher the ACE score, the more likely a person is to develop depression, suicidal tendencies, re-victimization behaviors, teen pregnancy, alcoholism and other addictive behaviors.
Quoting from Brinker’s article, “People with ACE scores of four or more were twice as likely to smoke, seven times more likely to be alcoholics, six times more likely to have had sex before the age of 15, twice as likely to receive a cancer diagnosis, twice as likely to have heart disease, four times as likely to suffer from emphysema or chronic bronchitis, 12 times as likely to have attempted suicide, and 10 times more likely to have injected street drugs.
“The bottom line is that trauma in childhood plays a significant role in determining the likelihood of the 10 most common causes of death in the United States.
“The statistics are alarming. And it’s time to call 9-1-1. Trauma is a public health crisis. We as a community need to start asking the right questions. Once we stop focusing our attention on what is wrong with people and begin deciphering the events that have shaped their being, we can put ourselves on the right track to providing better healing solutions. And more importantly, better outcomes.
“It is time to tear off that band-aid and get to work.”
Thank you, Erv Brinker, for one of the most well-stated articles on this issue.
[…] Trauma Needs More Than a Band-aid is an article by Erv Brinker. He brings up points and shows us how we are asking the wrong questions if we truly want to help others. […]
You wrote: In our perspective on PTSD, we need to stop asking “What is wrong with you?” and begin asking “What happened to you?”
I think that is really the key question. The tendency is to try to “fix” people without doing the time consuming work of finding out just why they are the way they are. So many think they have all the answers and they project that into their “helping”. They assume that there is a one fix solution for every problem, but that just isn’t so.
Thank you for this article.