Do you suffer from trauma?
Chances are, say experts, the answer is “yes.”
Trauma comes in all shapes and sizes, from the accumulation of small irritations during the day to life-altering shell shock or abuse.
It also goes beyond the person who experiences it, in a ripple effect into family, friends and the community at large.
Helping individuals recognize trauma and providing resources for the community is the goal of the third annual Healing Connections event, a half-day conference to be held Saturday at the American Legion Post 21, 504 58th St.
“The focus is about shifting the conversation about trauma in the community,” said Laura Cox, owner of Acupuncture & Wellness of Wisconsin and host of the event.
“It’s not just about post-traumatic stress disorder,” she said. “There’s caregiver trauma, or even trauma from watching the news,” Cox said. “Today’s environment is full of panic buttons.”
“If you think you don’t have it, that’s denial,” said Jon Christensen, who will be presenting at Saturday’s event. “Counselors, first responders, attorneys all have it — it’s pervasive.”
A counselor for the Hope Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs, and owner of OnBelay Counseling, Christensen, a Vietnam veteran, has been working in trauma counseling for veterans for more than 40 years. Saturday he will present “Trauma Informed Care: Responding to Our Lives’ Crises.”
“‘Trauma informed’ care is a young term; it’s only been around since about 2011,” Christensen said. “What it recognizes is that all of us have experienced trauma in our lives. It can be normal things in life, like someone putting you down, or experiences as a very young child or big things like PTSD or sexual abuse.”
By this definition, trauma extends to those who care for others in crisis situations, in what is known as “vicarious trauma.”
He added, “I view ‘trauma informed care’ to be one of the most important intervention and adaptation concepts available today.”
Working through the trauma will also be covered at the event. “It’s about resiliency, how you recuperate or recover from traumatic situations,” Cox said.
In her presentation, “The Art of Bouncing Back,” Lisa Kurman, of Recovery Matters Counseling, will highlight resiliency.
“Resilience isn’t something people are aware of on the (trauma) spectrum. It’s something we could all learn to do better,” Kurman said.
Kurman noted that the trauma response varies depending on personal resiliency. “It could be a response to small or large things — traffic, misbehaving children, challenges with co-workers,” she said. “Resilience is key to not having day-to-day incidents take us away from our goals and not being our best personal selves.”
“The process of growing our own personal resilience (is important) so we don’t get knocked off our square.”
A few of Kurman’s tips for building resiliency include: self care, resolving issues from the past, living in the present, maintaining personal physical and mental health and “walking in forgiveness.”
Christensen’s tips will include what he calls “psychological first aid.”
“In a trauma activation situation, psychotherapy is not appropriate or warranted. So the approach is emotional first aid along with providing physical comfort, reassurance and relief,” he said. “The key is recognizing when something is going on and intervening before it becomes a crisis.”
These techniques can help us “not just survive, but thrive,” Cox says.
Trauma informed care means everyone is responsible for reducing stress and trauma in society, Christensen said. “It places responsibility on the individual and makes available a variety of tools to help the individual navigate their way through the challenges that face all of us,” he said.
“If we all do little bits to make things better, we can accomplish a lot,” Christensen said. “It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a community to help trauma survivors.”
Kurman applauds community events like Healing Connections. “While there are many resources for people to get better, it’s good to have an event where resources come together as a package,” she said.
The “Healing Connections” event is free and will include some 12 stress and trauma information resource booths and student volunteers from the social work department of Carthage College.
Refreshments will also be offered free of charge: soup is being donated by Waterfront Warehouse and coffee from The Buzz. “The event is also an opportunity for local businesses and service providers who work with stress and trauma to network,” Cox said.