Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Healing Trauma's Invisible Wounds

Mental Health Month Raises Awareness of Trauma and Impact on Children, Families, Communities:
Healing the Invisible Wounds 

This May is Mental Health Month, the Ohio Psychological Association's Committee on Social Responsibility is raising awareness of trauma, the devastating impact it has on physical, emotional, and mental well-being, and how therapeutic techniques based in neuroscience can mitigate these effects and create dramatic changes in people’s lives.

A traumatic event—which threatens our lives, our safety or our personal integrity—can affect us profoundly.

“Most people think that “trauma” refers to physical trauma that occurs as a result of a car accident or assault,” said Kathleen Ashton, Ph.D., Psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic. “But it’s much more than that.”

Trauma includes:
  • Interpersonal violence – such as abuse, rape, domestic violence, and bullying;
  • Social violence — such as war, terrorism, and living under oppressive political regimes;
  • Natural disasters and accidents — such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, and auto crashes;
  • Serving in combat;
  • Chronic social stressors – such as racism, sexism, poverty, humiliation and cultural dislocation;
  • Childhood trauma—including physical, emotional and sexual abuse; emotional and physical neglect; a parent who’s an alcoholic or addicted to other drugs; a mother who’s been battered; a family member in prison or diagnosed with mental illness; and a loss of a parent through divorce or abandonment.

Trauma has tremendous human and societal costs. Trauma is the leading cause of the death of children in this country. The effect of trauma on productive life years lost exceeds that of any other disease. The economic cost of 50 million injuries in the year 2000, alone, was $406 billion. This includes estimates of $80 billion in medical care costs, and $326 billion in productivity losses. And the predicted cost to the health care system from interpersonal violence and abuse ranges between $333 billion and $750 billion annually, or nearly 17 to 37.5 percent of total health care expenditures.

“As a society, we are just beginning to deal with trauma—bringing it out of the shadows, finding new ways of healing its wounds, and casting off the shame that prevents trauma survivors from seeking help,” said Dr. Ashton.

When children or adults respond to these traumas with fear, horror and/or helplessness, the extreme stress is toxic to their brains and bodies, and overwhelms their ability to cope, Dr. Ashton said. While many people who experience a traumatic event are able to move on with their lives without lasting negative effects, others may have more difficulty managing their responses to trauma.

Unresolved trauma can manifest in many ways, including anxiety disorders, panic attacks, intrusive memories (flashbacks), obsessive-compulsive behaviors, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, addictions, self-injury and a variety of physical symptoms. Trauma increases health-risk behaviors such as overeating, smoking, drinking and risky sex. Trauma survivors can become perpetrators themselves.
Dr. Ashton said unaddressed trauma can significantly increase the risk of mental and substance use disorders, suicide, chronic physical ailments, as well as premature death.

Until recently, trauma survivors were largely unrecognized by the formal treatment system. The costs of trauma and its aftermath to victims and society were not well documented. Inadvertently, treatment systems may have frequently re-traumatized individuals and failed to understand the impact of traumatic experiences on general and mental health.

“Today, the causes of trauma—sexual abuse, violence in families and neighborhoods, and the impact of war, for example—are matters of public concern,” said Dr. Ashton. “But more needs to be done to recognize the devastating impact of trauma and successful approaches to treatment.

Many trauma survivors have formed self-help groups to heal together. Researchers have learned how trauma changes the brain and alters behavior.

A movement for trauma-informed care has emerged to ensure that trauma is recognized and treated and that survivors are not re-victimized when they seek care.

“It is critical that these efforts strengthened and we heal the invisible wounds of trauma,” Dr. Ashton said. “They are crucial to promoting the healthy development of children and healthy behaviors in families, schools and communities that reduce the likelihood of trauma.”

Mental Health Month was created more than 50 years by Mental Health America, to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of mental wellness for all.

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With over 1,600 clinician, academic, affiliate and student members, the Ohio Psychological Association (OPA) is nationally recognized as one of the preeminent state psychological associations. A well-established leader within the field, OPA works hard to ensure the science and professions of psychology remain vital, relevant and at the forefront in Ohio.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mental Health Blog Party

Mental health affects everyone and everything we do. Yet, mental health is a topic many don’t feel comfortable discussing. Join us on May 16, 2012, to spread the importance of good mental health and reduce its stigma.
How can you help people recognize the importance of good mental health, overcome stigma, and seek out professional mental health services when needed?
  • Join APA on Wednesday, May 16, and publish a post on your blog about mental health’s importance, how we can diminish stigma, or the challenges of making lifestyle and behavior changes. Tell your story. Share your experience. Mental health affects everything we do. No matter what you regularly blog about, there’s a way to incorporate mental health.
  • Follow @apahelpcenter on Twitter for updates about the blog party and mind/body health. If you want us to easily find your blog or tweet, use the hashtag #mhblogday
  • Post an “I’m Blogging for Mental Health” 2012 badge on your blog and help proudly spread the word about the importance of mental health.

Send us a message if you want to take part in it this year and help spread the word.

Event Background

Mental health: it’s the way your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors affect your life. Having good mental health helps you make better decisions and deal with daily stressors at home, at work, and in your family. Sometimes, you may need help from a professional to take care of your mental health, especially if feelings or problems seem beyond your control.
Congress designated May as Mental Health Month in 1949 to illustrate the importance of mental health issues to the overall health and well-being of American citizens. On May 16, bloggers will come together for a Mental Health Month Blog Party to educate the public about mental health, decrease stigma about mental illness, and discuss strategies for making lasting lifestyle and behavior changes that promote overall health and wellness.
You can see some of the great blogs that contributed to this year’s event at our 2011 Mental Health Month Blog Party round-up.
If you want to trip down memory lane, here are the posts from the 2010 Mental Health Month Blog Day Party.
Some facts about mental health
  • One in four Americans experiences a mental health disorder every year, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health.
  • Chronic stress can affect both our physical and psychological well-being by causing a variety of problems including anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system.
  • Research published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior (Vol. 41, No. 2) finds that 68 percent of Americans do not want someone with a mental illness marrying into their family and 58 percent do not want people with mental illness in their workplaces.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Women Stress About Family Responsibilities and Health Concerns


OPA offers tips for stressed-out women this Mother’s Day

In today’s harried world, it is not uncommon for women to wear many hats in their families. More often than men, statistics show they are tasked with caregiving responsibilities for both children and family members inside their home. As families across the country pause to celebrate the women in their lives this Mother’s Day, the Ohio Psychological Association is calling attention to the unique stressors that women face as caregivers and the health consequences they may experience as a result.

According to the American Psychological Association survey, Stress in America™: Our Health at Risk, women are more likely than the general public to cite family health concerns (57 percent for women, 53 percent for the general public) and family responsibilities (62 percent for women, 57 percent for the general public) as sources of stress. In general, caregivers, both men and women, are also more likely to report higher levels of stress than others in the country (6.5 for caregivers, 5.2 for the general public, in 2011, on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is little or no stress and 10 is a great deal of stress).

As health care decision makers and often caregivers for their families, women tend to put others’ needs before their own,” said Kathleen Ashton, Ph.D.“With so many competing responsibilities, women often don’t take time for themselves and their overall wellness can be compromised. This Mother’s Day, let’s give women a break and help them find healthy ways to manage stress and live well.”

For Mother’s Day, OPA offers these healthy lifestyle strategies for busy women, mothers and caregivers:

  • Take care of yourself— Set aside time to engage in healthy activities that you enjoy or that help you relax. Identify hobbies, increase exercising or eating healthy foods. Making time for yourself will help you better manage stressful situations and allow you to better care for the whole family. Also, find something that makes you laugh – humor is important, and laughter can really make life a whole lot easier.
  • Recognize how you deal with family stress — Some people deal with stress by engaging in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, comfort eating, or yelling and becoming irritable. Remember that stress is inevitable. What makes the biggest difference is how you manage that stress.
  • Reach out to others — Enlist and accept help from others including friends and family. Identify ways your family can help with specific needs that must be met like proving a meal or babysitting so you can find time to take a break and rejuvenate. Take time to connect with your girlfriends when you are feeling overwhelmed. Strong female friendships can help women overcome stressors.
  • Keep things in perspective —Remind yourself that each morning offers a new start and take things one step at a time. Realize that there is no one perfect way to parent. Staying optimistic lowers stress.
  • Prioritize — You can only do one thing at a time. Delay or say no to the unimportant tasks, and make appointments for more important tasks, such as spending quality time with a spouse or child.
  • Be organized — Keeping the family and yourself organized reduces stress. Put family health information in separate folders; get family members to keep laundry in color coded baskets; keep book bags in assigned bins. Harried searching for things adds to mom’s stress. Enlist your children’s help in developing an organization plan for your household - if they are involved in the planning, they will be more likely to follow through.
  • Ask for professional help — If you feel overwhelmed by stress or the unhealthy behaviors you use to cope, you may want to talk with a psychologist who can help you address the emotions behind your worries, better manage stress and change unhealthy behaviors.

For more information on managing stress and mind/body health, visit, follow APA on Twitter @apahelpcenter and read the “Your Mind Your Body” blog at Details of APA’s Stress in America survey can be found at

With over 1,600 clinician, academic, affiliate and student members, the Ohio Psychological Association (OPA) is nationally recognized as one of the preeminent state psychological associations. A well-established leader within the field, OPA works hard to ensure the science and professions of psychology remain vital, relevant and at the forefront in Ohio.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 154,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants, and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession, and as a means of promoting health, education, and human welfare.