Childhood trauma takes a hard toll
Three of my recent “It’s a family matter” podcasts with Drs. Emma and Mac Wallace tackled the tough subject of childhood trauma. Emma asserts that childhood trauma and unresolved childhood trauma in adults are the greatest, world-wide health problems we face as a society.
After the second episode, “The Weight of Childhood Trauma,” was released on February 1, I asked some Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) staff members to listen and share with me their thoughts. Thirty-five staff members sent emails or called me personally. All were insightful, but an email from Odum Home case manager Heavenly Silva stood out.
In her email, she states: “Talking about the pervasive impact of psychological problems related to unresolved childhood trauma is vital to us treating its effects. No one mental health symptom happens in a vacuum. There are reasons that people participate in unsafe or illegal behaviors. It is important to look at the whole person and discover the reasons behind the behaviors.”
Heavenly went on to explain the necessity of being trauma informed, or having knowledge of the trauma children and residents have experienced, so healing can be facilitated.
“As we focus on the whole person, we must meet people where they are rather than dictate how they must meet our standards,” she writes.
“Dictating rules and keeping report cards on behavior anchors trauma in place instead of promoting change.”
Heavenly believes this path to healing is one shared with Jesus. She states that Jesus showed that true healing comes from “stooping down, having empathy, and letting love bring healing.”
“Jesus dealt with some ugly things and handled messy situations with love and compassion,” Heavenly reminds. “Jesus didn’t resort to the use of shame in an attempt to make people better––and neither can we.”
Heavenly writes in her email that in order to bring healing, Jesus met people where they were. She asserted that Jesus communicated differently with the humble and sick versus the haughty. “His approach for those who were troubled or caught in sin can be seen in the gentle conversation he had with the woman at the well or his gentle rebuke of Peter for denying him.”
“Greater than four hundred and twenty eight billion dollars, and that number is probably underestimated, is spent caring for those who have been traumatized as children,” Dr. Emma Wallace says.
There is not only psychological and emotional damage, but trauma impacting the body and the expense of dealing with the effects rivals the nation’s costliest health concerns. Bodies are falling apart, psyches are falling apart. People walk around with all this in their body, and experts like the Wallaces say it is going to be there until victims start experiencing healing.
The healing of trauma is measured in years not days. Heavenly ended her email stressing the importance of BCH giving children and residents who have suffered trauma a safe place to process. “There is no greater way that we can reflect Christ’s love for others who suffered the toll of trauma than to be in the business of helping them heal through sacrificial generosity and graciousness. It’s what we’re all called to do.”
Listen to “It’s a family matter” podcasts at www.bchblog.org/podcast
My Thoughts is written by Michael C. Blackwell, BCH President/CEO