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John Paradiso: Stopping the cycle of social trauma & PTSD - The hidden epidemic.

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is defined as a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event that is either experienced directly or witnessed. It is common for people who have gone through a traumatic event to have difficulty adjusting and coping. They might have flashbacks of the event, have nightmares, experience anxiety and/or avoid situations that remind them of the event. Such experiences are common in the aftermath of a traumatic event which is sometimes referred to as a brief stress reaction. Should the person continue to have difficulty for months or even years afterward then they may have developed PTSD.

Traumatic experiences are sometimes referred to as big "T's" and little "t's". It is often the accumulation of little t's or adverse life events that become the focus of attention in trauma therapy. Many people recover from big T events as there is a great deal of empathy and understanding from their support network. Smaller t events however, may get explained away or minimized by support systems which can lead to a devaluation of self over time.

Left unchecked, the smaller t's can accumulate and interfere with all areas of a person's activities of daily living. This is especially true for children and adolescents where adverse life events and developmental insults are not only common, but unavoidable. While it is unreasonable to think that a person can make it through childhood without having to experience not being picked to play kickball, or have a break-up explained away as 'puppy love', it is important for adults to recognize the impact such small t events can have on a child. Accumulated adverse events that go unacknowledged by primary caregivers during childhood can contribute to behavioral problems. These behaviors are often met with punishment, discipline and/or sanctions resulting in additional small to medium t events that ultimately perpetuate the cycle. It is therefore important for a parent to exhibit an understanding of events from the child's perspective in order to encourage emotional development. It is also helpful for parents to remember that the child determines the size of the T, no matter how small it may appear to be to the parent.

While it is good to be aware of any big T events that a child may experience, it is also important to stay attuned to the numerous small t events. Parents can look out for changes in their child's level of alertness or "hypervigilance," social withdrawal, disrupted sleep patterns including nightmares of the event(s), and avoidance of situations reminding them of the event. Parents may consider speaking with the school counselor or seeking professional help if these signs last more than a month or begin to disrupt activities of daily living.

The Child & Youth MHSA division of the City of Virginia Beach Department of Human Services is proud to be considered a Trauma Informed Care Clinic. Trauma Informed Care is a concept that considers the effects that adverse life events can have on a person. While staff provides services for all manner of mental health and behavioral difficulties, awareness of the impacts of traumatic events - big and small - helps us to provide holistic care. For more information about Child & Youth Services visit our website.

About the Author

John Paradiso is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 25 years of experience. He is an internationally certified therapist in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) as well as an Approved Consultant in EMDR. He also maintains a national certification in Trauma Focused - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Mr. Paradiso provides direct service to adolescents and families and supervises the Youth Mobile Crisis Team for the Department of Human Services in Virginia Beach.

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Are you as involved in your child’s education as you would like to be? See what new research shows about parent engagement in our schools.

Whether it is helping a child with homework, volunteering at a school event or simply working with teachers when an issue arises, parents are taking an active role in our schools. A recent survey shows that levels of parent involvement are increasing. But, there is always room for the school division to create new opportunities for parents and the community to become in engaged. We wanted to know how satisfied parents are with current opportunities and what barriers may be keeping them from being more involved. The school division recently worked with the local research firm Issues and Answers to survey parents about their involvement and communication needs. You can learn more about the survey and see the results here.

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Beach Bags are funded entirely through donations.

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Last Modified on Monday, March 02, 2015