Trauma can affect our thoughts and behaviour

By Admin Thursday May 26 2016 in Opinion
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By Dr. CHRISTOPHER J. MORGAN

Two weeks ago Torontonians woke up to the news that a young woman, Candice Rochelle Bobb (only 35 years of age) and five months pregnant, was shot and killed while sitting in the back seat of a car in the Jamestown community in Rexdale. I know the neighbourhood well as I spent my teenage years in Rexdale and countless hours playing basketball on the Jamestown courts.

Candice was rushed to Etobicoke General Hospital and by the grace of God her baby son was born by cesarean section but, sadly, his young mother did not survive her wounds.

I listened to reports on radio of community members who feel “hopeless” and “afraid”. At the time of writing this article, the perpetrators of this crime had not been apprehended. Toronto Chief of Police Mark Saunders is asking the community for help in solving this crime.

Naturally we are shocked, horrified and saddened by such brazen acts of violence that end innocent lives, and sends fear throughout a community. Arguably, the most disturbing reality is these events continue to repeat themselves. Sometimes the culprits continue to run at large and if the incident is gang-related there may be retribution, a revenge attack in the near future.

What is the toll of such trauma? Not only on the immediate family and loved ones but on the community at large? How do we cope with such tragic events? How do we develop the strength to move on? How do we recover?

On Saturday, May 28, Edna Aryee, PhD, will lead a discussion on “Trauma, Resiliency and Recovery” at Morgan Chiropractic & Wellness. Dr. Aryee is a psychologist in supervised practice with eight years of experience providing therapy and assessment services to adults in clinical and forensic/correctional psychology. Dr. Aryee has worked in a number of settings including community agencies, corrections and public health agencies. In 2015, she received the Community Role Model Honours by Senate Canada and Diversity Network, respectively. Dr. Aryee has three peer reviewed publications, a book chapter and is currently completing five forensic papers and two youth leadership books. She currently works at the Morgan Chiropractic and Wellness where her primary focus is on trauma, depression, anxiety, personality disorders, culture and psychopathy and related mental health issues within the Black community.

How does trauma affect our thoughts and behaviour (include types of trauma in your response)?

Trauma is a precipitating life event that has the potential of causing psychological, emotional, physical and medical impact to the individual ways of coping – including thoughts, emotions and behaviours. The common types of trauma include sexual (rape, harassment, exposing indecent materials, touching), physical (accidents, violent crime assaults) natural disaster (fire, hurricane, air plane crashes and earthquake), psychological/emotional (neglect, verbal abuse, workplace harassments, discrimination & bullying) and vicarious or secondary trauma. Trauma can affect us in diverse ways, however, the severity of the event, an individual’s personal history, coping skills and support are critical factors that can exacerbate or mitigate the trauma.

How do you know when your coping strategies or methods are not working and it’s time to get help?

Most cultural people tend to use traditional and/or personal approaches of coping before consulting a licensed professional for help. When your day-to-day functioning is not at your optimum level, then you probably need to seek professional help. You may find your personal strategies helpful; however, you may still be experiencing intrusive thoughts, flashbacks or nightmares, sudden floods of emotions or images related to the traumatic event, emotional numbing and avoidance. According to Jaffe, Segal, Dumke (2015), some individuals may continue to experience fear, sleep disturbances, anxiety, unwanted thoughts (suicidal sometimes), withdrawn and feeling out of control. All in all, it is prudent to note that the amount of time, type of intervention or intensity of support needed to recover from trauma, could differ from one individual to another.

Could you define resiliency?

Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from a difficult/devastating life experience or event. According to the American Psychological Association, resiliency “is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress”.

Can someone develop or strengthen their resiliency?

Resiliency can be learned and developed. It is part of your emotional intelligence which is naturally embedded in us – when you are able to identify the strengths in you, they can serve as your protective factors in times of crisis.

How do you recover from trauma?

You recover from trauma by seeking help from a licensed professional such as a psychologist. You could also incorporate mindfulness, culturally adapted intervention strategies and keep family and friends closer.

Do different communities or cultures respond differently to trauma?

There is no straightforward answer to this question for the reason that anyone can be traumatized and, as such, developing symptoms is never a sign of weakness. In a multidimensional Model of Resilience it has been suggested that there are many factors associated with culture and recovery or resilience – being culturally grounded by knowing where you come from and being part of a cultural milieu that is expressed through support, coping and growth are some of the key factors that make a difference in recovery. Hence, traumatic symptoms should be taken seriously and steps should be taken to heal.

What are your thoughts on how our health care system could better support people through the process of recovery?

By incorporating some essential strategies, including cultural competency, anti-oppression strategies, trauma informed care in our recovery/care plan, as well as promoting and establishing cultural safety for holistic healing.

Thank you Dr. Aryee.

None of us is immune to the effects of various forms of trauma in our lives. Come join the conversation at the free presentation on “Trauma, Resiliency and Recovery” at Morgan Chiropractic & Wellness, 1 Valentine Drive (Don Mills & York Mills) on Saturday April 30, 1 pm – 3 pm. Call 416-447-7600 or email (info@mcw4life.com) to register.

Dr. Christopher J. Morgan is the director of Morgan Chiropractic & Wellness, an interdisciplinary health centre in Toronto; and the founder and former president of the Black Health Alliance, a network of community organizations, health professionals and community members working in partnership to advance the health and well-being of the Black community. He can be reached at 416-447-7600 or info@mcw4life.com.

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