The following is from a recent study on the effects of the pandemic on our mental health, substance use, and suicidality. It is safe to say that those of us who were already experience challenges before the pandemic have seen an increase in our struggles.
Even if we never had issues with mental health or substance use, the pandemic caused us to feel depressed, anxious, and overwhelmed.
Data show COVID’s impact on nation’s mental health, substance use…
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released findings from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The data suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on the nation’s well-being. Americans responding to the NSDUH survey reported that the coronavirus outbreak adversely impacted their mental health, including by exacerbating use of alcohol or drugs among people who had used drugs in the past year.
Several changes to the 2020 NSDUH prevent its findings from being directly comparable to recent past-year surveys, as explained below.
Based on data collected nationally from October to December 2020, it is estimated that 25.9 million past-year users of alcohol and 10.9 million past-year users of drugs other than alcohol reported they were using these substances “a little more or much more” than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic began. During that same time period, youths ages 12 to 17 who had a past-year major depressive episode (MDE) reported they were more likely than those without a past-year MDE to feel that the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected their mental health “quite a bit or a lot.” Adults 18 or older who had any mental illness (AMI) or serious mental illness (SMI) in the past year were more likely than adults without mental illness to report that the pandemic negatively affected their mental health “quite a bit or a lot.”
The 2020 data also estimate that 4.9 percent of adults aged 18 or older had serious thoughts of suicide, 1.3 percent made a suicide plan, and 0.5 percent attempted suicide in the past year. These findings vary by race and ethnicity, with people of mixed ethnicity reporting higher rates of serious thoughts of suicide. Among people of mixed ethnicity 18 or older, 11 percent had serious thoughts of suicide, 3.3 percent made a suicide plan and 1.2 percent attempted suicide in the past year. Among Whites 18 or older, 5.3 percent had serious thoughts of suicide, 1.4 percent made a suicide plan, and 0.5 percent attempted suicide in the past year. Among Hispanics or Latinos 18 or older, 4.2 percent had serious thoughts of suicide, 1.2 percent made a suicide plan and 0.6 percent attempted suicide in the past year. Among adolescents 12 to 17, 12 percent had serious thoughts of suicide, 5.3 percent made a suicide plan, and 2.5 percent attempted suicide in the past year.
“SAMHSA’s annual NSDUH provides helpful data on the extent of substance use and mental health issues in the United States,” said Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., who leads SAMHSA. “These data help to guide our policy directions in addressing such priorities as addiction, suicide prevention, and the intersection of substance use and mental health issues.”
Read more on this study: CLICK HERE
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Understanding PTSD, the Road to Resilience, Tools for Building Resiliency, Healing the Hurt, How’s Your Heart exercise, Trauma and the Sensory System, Dealing with Dissociation, Grounding Tools, Building Your Family Stress Toolbox, Healing Affirmations for PTSD, Learning Your ACE Score, Post-Traumatic GROWTH Inventory, Trauma and Your Family, Coping Strategies for Coping with COVID.
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You might wonder if it is possible to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during a COVID-19 pandemic crisis, but this is the situation that therapists and clients find themselves. Can we find a way to maintain effective treatment through the use of modern technology? Is it possible to treat trauma with this “new world” approach to mental health?
Since the beginning of this year (2020), countries worldwide have worked to protect vulnerable populations from the virus COVID-19. The primary strategies used to prevent the spread of the virus is social distancing and self-imposed quarantine. While this has been effective in reducing the pandemic’s physical effects, it hasn’t protected us from the psychological effects of this unprecedented life-situation. We see an increase in fear, anger, anxiety, panic, helplessness, and burnout in both children and adults. As a therapist working remotely with people dealing with stress and trauma, I have seen several extreme reactions of hallucinations and delusions due to the isolation and continual digestion of negative news media.
A Healthline.com survey of what COVID-19 is doing to our mental health gives a somber picture: increased worry and insecurity over finances, higher than normal depression and anxiety, prevalent feelings of sadness, and being “on edge,” and an alarming rise in suicides. In America, Federal dollars are being released to increase mental health services nationwide to stem this rising tide of trauma without fully knowing the long-term effects of trauma.
Therapists, just like the general population, use social distancing and remote work to keep themselves, their families, and their clients safe. Therapists are “front-line responders” and considered “essential workers,” but not all therapists choose to be exposed to 30-40 people a week who might have the COVID virus. Many of them, like myself, have family members who have compromised immune systems and considered to be at-risk. Working from an office and seeing individuals, face-to-face is not an option. Therefore, therapists and clients have to seek alternatives that can be equally beneficial to both.
The European Journal of Psychotraumatology studied the Telehealth models for post-traumatic stress disorder using cognitive therapy and found that clients rated it as very successful in managing their symptoms. High patient satisfaction ratings were given for both video conferencing and phone call sessions. In the later technology, the only nonverbal communication was the tone of voice, and yet it still benefited clients.
The journal defines Post-traumatic stress disorder by “a sense of serious current threat, which has two sources: the nature of the trauma memory and excessive negative appraisals.” Traumatized individuals frequently have intrusive, negative thoughts about traumatic experiences and continue to see the world with a negative lens. They have a feeling of hopelessness about their future and easily triggered by daily events.
Professional organizations are rising to the challenge and providing education and support to remote mental health workers on the unique delivery of mental health through technology. Guidelines have been created by the American Psychological Society, International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies, and the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence, specifically targeting PTSD. Governing boards for various mental health professionals are also outlining specific legal and ethical requirements for safe, trustworthy online therapy.
According to the Psychotraumatology journal article, Telehealth’s use led to “improvements in PTSD symptoms, disability, depression, anxiety, and quality of life, and over 70% of patients recovered from PTSD (meaning they no longer met diagnostic criteria). The Journal of Family Process has reported several articles on the effectiveness of Telehealth with children, adults, couples, and families.
Therapists, offline and online, can provide education and support to (1) reduce negative reactivity in thoughts and emotions, (2) build more effective coping skills, and (3) deepen the quality of life and relationships.
These three areas are healing strategies outlined in my trauma-informed training and therapy.
The foundation for PTSD work, in face-to-face or video conferencing, is to establish a sense of safety from which to utilize these healing strategies. The client has to trust the therapist, believing he can offer some hope, create an atmosphere of security, and witness the traumatic hurt for PTSD individuals. Empathy isn’t confined to the physical space of the therapist’s office. It can exist in the relational space online as well. Facial expressions on video, tone of voice, empathic responses, and supportive comments assist the connection despite distances.
Finding a private place to have a conversation is one real-world challenge of online work. Privacy can be increased by changing locations (some of my clients go inside cars, relocating to other rooms in the house, or going outside), using headphones, and letting family members know that they can’t be disturbed hour or so. Additionally, therapists can also learn about resources in the client’s living area if referrals are needed. Homework assignments can also be used between sessions and discussed online for adolescents and adults. Parents can participate online with young children, and family members can “zoom” in from different locations at an agreed-upon time. And lastly, follow up with secure emails and text messaging can further increase the outcome of this digital therapeutic medium for PTSD.
If you are looking for a trauma therapist or someone to help you or a family member with anxiety, contact Ron Huxley today at RonHuxley.com
Be sure to take advantage of our free online resources for families during the COVID-19 Pandemic at FamilyHealer.tv
There is a common problem in social work and mental health today in trying to label people who have experience trauma. The reason for this is that trauma can impact the brain and the body in a way that produces a wide-range of symptoms that can be confusing to understand.
Most professionals are not “trauma-informed” meaning they haven’t received training on how trauma affects every area of human functioning or how to treat the whole person. Trauma, particularly the adverse experiences endured in early childhood, that can result in coping mechanisms that mimic criteria of various clinical diagnoses.
What are some of the labels you have heard placed on traumatized children or adults?
- Trouble makers
- No conscience
- Stressed Out
- and many more…
In addition to a lack of trauma awareness, we are all “meaning-seeking creatures” that want to label everything so that we can feel better about ourselves and our world. Unfortunately, it can do a lot of damage to the people we are labeling. If we label incorrectly, we will treat them incorrectly. This is might also be why so many survivors appear to “sabotage” their success. It isn’t a real desire to ruin their life. They need sensitive professionals and parents who understand how to deal with the root, trauma issues.
Fortunately, there is a national movement to train parents and professionals, who work with traumatized children, to become more “Trauma-Informed.” This movement is reaching out to homes, school, and organizations and explaining “What is trauma?”, “Impact of Trauma on the Brain, Behavior and Health”, “Adverse Childhood Experiences”, “Power of Resilience”, “Regulation Skills”, “Dissociation”, “Mindfulness and Compassion”, “Recognizing Signs and Symptoms of Trauma in Children”, “Attachment Disorders”, “Post-traumatic stress and Post-trauma Growth”, “Trauma in the Community”, “Avoiding Re-traumatization in Survivors”, “Trauma-Sensitive Schools”, “Faith-Based Approaches to Trauma” and more.
The focus of these training efforts is shifting the primary question inherent in treatment plans, screenings, programs and polices from asking “what is wrong with you” to “what has happened to you”.
This paradigm shift starts the dialogue with survivors, humanizes our practices and helps traumatized children and adults on how to find true healing.
If you would like Ron to train your organization on Trauma-Informed Care, contact him today at 805-709-2023 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The other side of toxic stress and trauma is resiliency. We can build resiliency skills in our homes, schools, and the community-at-large. Trauma-informed care asks us to make a paradigm shift in our approaches from asking survivors “what’s wrong with you?” to “what happened to you?”. The latter creates safety and respect in our programs and procedures with traumatized children, women, and men.
Learn the six key principles of SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration): Safety, Trustworthiness, Peer Support, Collaboration, Empowerment, and Cultural Awareness.
Individual strengths of the survivor should be build on, expanded, and celebrated. Together the individual, organization, and community can heal together.
We must move beyond cultural stereotypes and biases and recognize and addresses historical trauma.
These principles lead to the development of the 4 R’s: Realize the impact of trauma, Recognize the signs of trauma, Respond in policies, practices and procedures, and ultimately, to Resist retraumatization.
What does this look like in your organization or business? Get helpful quizzes, handouts, checklists more at TraumaToolbox.com
PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.
It’s normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after a traumatic event. At first, it may be hard to do normal daily activities, like go to work, go to school, or spend time with people you care about. But most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months.
If it’s been longer than a few months and you’re still having symptoms, you may have PTSD. For some people, PTSD symptoms may start later on, or they may come and go over time.
Who Develops PTSD?
Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. A number of factors can increase the chance that someone will have PTSD, many of which are not under that person’s control. For example, having a very intense or long-lasting traumatic event or getting injured during the event can make it more likely that a person will develop PTSD. PTSD is also more common after certain types of trauma, like combat and sexual assault.
Personal factors, like previous traumatic exposure, age, and gender, can affect whether or not a person will develop PTSD. What happens after the traumatic event is also important. Stress can make PTSD more likely, while social support can make it less likely.
Although there are a core set of PTSD symptoms that are required for the diagnosis, PTSD does not look the same in everyone. In addition symptoms may come and go and may change over time from childhood to later adulthood.
Avoidance is a common reaction to trauma. It is natural to want to avoid thinking about or feeling emotions about a stressful event. But when avoidance is extreme, or when it’s the main way you cope, it can interfere with your emotional recovery and healing.
- Trauma Reminders: Anniversaries
On the anniversary of a traumatic event, some survivors have an increase in distress. These “anniversary reactions” can range from feeling mildly upset for a day or two to a more extreme reaction with more severe mental health or medical symptoms.
- Trauma Reminders: Triggers
People respond to traumatic events in a number of ways, such as feelings of concern, anger, fear, or helplessness. Research shows that people who have been through trauma, loss, or hardship in the past may be even more likely than others to be affected by new, potentially traumatic events.
- Aging Veterans and Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms
For many Veterans, memories of their wartime experiences can still be upsetting long after they served in combat. Even if they served many years ago, military experience can still affect the lives of Veterans today.
- Very Young Trauma Survivors
Trauma and abuse can have grave impact on the very young. The attachment or bond between a child and parent matters as a young child grows. This bond can make a difference in how a child responds to trauma.
- PTSD in Children and Teens
Trauma affects school-aged children and teenagers differently than adults. If diagnosed with PTSD, the symptoms in children and teens can also look different. For many children, PTSD symptoms go away on their own after a few months. Yet some children show symptoms for years if they do not get treatment. There are many treatment options available including talk and play therapy.
- History of PTSD in Veterans: Civil War to DSM-5
PTSD became a diagnosis with influence from a number of social movements, such as Veteran, feminist, and Holocaust survivor advocacy groups. Research about Veterans returning from combat was a critical piece to the creation of the diagnosis. So, the history of what is now known as PTSD often references combat history. * Source:
- SOURCE: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/
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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Children : Infographic
Children who have been abused or witnessed violence suffer similar trauma to war veterans…
LONDON (Reuters) Children exposed to family violence show the same pattern of activity in their brains as soldiers exposed to combat, scientists said on Monday. In a study in the journal Current Biology, researchers used brain scans to explore the impact of physical abuse or domestic violence on children’s emotional development and found that exposure to it was linked to increased activity in two brain areas when children were shown pictures of angry faces.
Previous studies that scanned the brains of soldiers exposed to violent combat situations showed the same pattern of heightened activity in these two brain areas the anterior insula and the amygdala which experts say are associated with detecting potential threats. This suggests that both maltreated children and soldiers may have adapted to become “hyperaware” of danger in their environment, the researchers said. “Enhanced reactivity to a…threat cue such as anger may represent an adaptive response for these children in the short term, helping keep them out of danger,” said Eamon McCrory of Britain’s University College London, who led the study.