January 23, 2005

Violence hinders brain development

January 23, 2005 [Kansas City Star]
By Mará Rose Williams

Witnessing violence can make anyone feel bad, but it especially hurts children because their immature brains are more vulnerable to stress.

So says Linda Chamberlain, a research scientist who spoke Thursday about the effects of childhood exposure to violence on brain development.

Chamberlain, an epidemiologist who founded the Alaska Family Violence Prevention Project, was the keynote speaker at a workshop organized by the Maternal and Child Health Coalition of Greater Kansas City.

She discussed the still-maturing brain of adolescents and the often-traumatic effect that violence, including domestic violence, can have. She said trauma experienced by a child might not show up in destructive behaviors until the teen years.

Chamberlain suggested that when teachers, school counselors or social workers work with children who are abusing alcohol and drugs, having sex, experiencing eating disorders or threatening suicide, the adults should look closely for violence in the home.

“It doesn't matter if the child has seen it, heard it or just sensed the violence in the home — it will have an effect on them,” she said.

Several workers from a battered women's shelter said that Chamberlain's association of the developing brain, violence and teen behavior made sense, saying that it explained outbursts they witnessed in children of their shelter clients.

Chamberlain described each area of the brain and its role in human development. Many changes in the brain, she said, occur during adolescence. For some, adolescence extends until age 20; for others, as late as 26.

Because the young brain is not fully developed, especially the prefrontal lobe, which determines judgment, organization and self-control, that area is more vulnerable to stress brought on by exposure to violence.

The younger a child's age, the more development of the brain is compromised and the longer lasting the effects.

“By age 12, children exposed to violence are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety and defiance disorders associated with post-traumatic stress disorder,” Chamberlain said.

All types of violence are culprits, including television and video-game violence in which consequences for actions are not clear.

“Parents, cut the cable, save a brain,” Chamberlain said.

But the worst violence for children and adolescents, she said, is family violence.

“Seeing parents or other adults fight can feel as bad to a teen as being hit themselves,” she said.

Posted by Nancy at 07:05 PM | Comments (0)

180 people with post-traumatic stress disorder needed for UW study

January 2005 {University of Washington] uwnews.org

Approximately 70 percent of people in the United States experience a traumatic event during their lifetime and a significant number of these people later develop post-traumatic stress disorder, a chronic and debilitating condition that can persist for months or even years.

While there are several tested treatments for the disorder, very little is known about their comparable effectiveness. That's why University of Washington researchers are looking for 180 Puget Sound men and women who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to participate in a new study that will compare the effectiveness of state-of-the-art medication and psychotherapy treatments.

Between 8 and 14 percent of the people who experience such events develop persistent symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder that can impair their lives, according to Lori Zoellner, a UW associate psychology professor. These symptoms include recurrent thoughts of the trauma; intense feelings of fear and anxiety when reminded of the event; nightmares; avoiding situations, people or thoughts associated with the trauma; feeling numb or having difficulty experiencing strong emotions; sweating, racing heart or hot or cold flashes when reminded of the trauma; and jumpiness or a tendency to be easily startled.

Participants in the study will receive free treatment for 10 weeks and follow-up assessments over a 24-month period, said Zoellner. In addition to the treatment, participants can earn up to $300 for completing follow-up assessments. At the UW, Zoellner is directing the $2.6 million multi-site study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

To be eligible for the study, men and women must be between the ages of 18 and 65 and have chronic post-traumatic stress disorder after experiencing a traumatic event such as sexual assault, robbery, automobile accident, assault with a weapon, combat or a natural disaster.

People in the study will receive at least 10 weeks of treatment -- either the medication sertraline (Zoloft) or a form of cognitive behavioral therapy called prolonged exposure. Both treatment options are well established and have previously been shown to be effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder in large-scale randomized controlled trials. One of the main goals of the study is to directly compare these two treatments. Following the 10 weeks of treatment, participants may continue on the medication or receive booster therapy sessions, as needed, for 24 months. Those people who do not respond to the treatment they receive can switch to the other treatment option.

The study also is designed to look at the role of choice in treatment compliance and outcome. Half of the participants will select the treatment of their choice while the others will be randomly assigned to medication or therapy.

"In the real world people pick their treatment. Our study will let us look at the role of choice in treatment outcomes, " Zoellner said.

In addition, the study also is designed to measure long-term treatment effectiveness through the 24-month follow-up and to assess relapse.

Through this process, the researchers hope to better understand what treatments work better for particular patients both in the short term and long term for the disorder, according to Zoellner.

People who would like to participate in the study or have questions about it should contact Helen Miller, a research assistant at the UW's Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress, at (206) 685-3617

Posted by Nancy at 06:54 PM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2005

Program gives women new lives

Jan 15, 2005 [The Brunswick News]
By By BJ Corbitt

Cristal Morton's eyes light up when she starts talking about the future.

"I'm excited," the 26-year-old says as she ticks off a list of her plans for the coming months and years. Her goals are simple enough. She wants to live with her three children again, become a certified nurse assistant and join a church.

For now, though, all of that is in the future because Morton's past — a cycle of alcohol and drug abuse — has led her to spend the present as a resident patient at the Gateway Behavioral Health Services' women's residence unit in Darien.

Morton has been living there since October and plans to graduate back into her life in Brunswick next month.

The unit, which opened in July, has 16 beds for women who suffer from alcohol or drug addiction, as well as space for their children. Eighty-six women have been treated there since July.

The unit is far from sterile, with cozy carpeting, a collection of cartoons on DVD for the younger residents and a kitchen area that appears lifted from an average suburban home serving to make the women and children feel as much at home as possible.

A similar unit, with six beds for women, opened in Brunswick this month, but isn't able to accommodate children.

"Women's needs have been neglected," said Onie Alexander, substance abuse director for Gateway and coordinator of both residence units.

Alexander said the McIntosh County unit focuses on helping women improve all aspects of their lives. In addition to a 12-step program to treat substance abuse habits, the women are treated for other disorders they may have, such as depression, post traumatic stress disorder, lingering effects of domestic violence and other mental illnesses. The women are also instructed in spirituality and basic life skills like parenting, nutrition and finance.

For Christina Deal, the nearly two months she's spent in the McIntosh County unit have provided her with help she couldn't find living in Savannah.

"I'm 27 years old, and I've been involved in a world of abuse and alcohol and drugs since I was 12, and it's just kind of snowballed," she said. "I couldn't stay off drugs even knowing I was going to get drug tested. I couldn't do it."

Deal says the help she's received through Gateway has given her the ability to live a clean and sober life. She completed the program Friday, and now has her chance to prove it.

"I've never made a 24-hour period (clean) before in my life," she said.

"I've been clean 51 days now. For me, that's a lifetime. I know what to do now if I want to stay clean."

The program has different levels built in based on the needs of the women who are admitted. Women may stay as briefly as 30 days or as long as six months, Alexander said.

By the time they leave, they're expected, at minimum, to have a suitable job and place to live. Sponsors who work with the women daily after their release from the program monitor their progress and provide any help they need.

The units in Brunswick and Darien serve women in Glynn, McIntosh, Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Liberty and Long counties.

Alexander says watching realization and understanding dawn in the women who come across her path is a great reward.

"When they get the insight, it's a whole other person," she said. "I think that's the best part of it."

Posted by Nancy at 10:39 AM | Comments (0)

Post Traumatic Stress - PTSD

(Post Traumatic Stress often results from traumatic situations such as war, disasters, and childhood sexual abuse. Here is an article from the Tsunami zone.)

From Santha Oorjitham

KINNIYA (Sri Lanka), Jan 15 (Bernama) -- Nine-year-old A. Mujib dreams of his two sisters who were killed in the Dec 26 tsunami and wakes up crying.

He shadows his 17-year-old brother A. Musammil closely at the Periakinniya displaced persons centre at Kinniya Central College National School in Sri Lanka's northeastern Trincomalee district.

Their mother had already been pronounced dead and tied up to be taken for burial when they saw her toes moving and realised she was alive. She was taken to the hospital and has since recovered.

Musammil is afraid to go back to his job as a fisherman until he is sure the sea is safe. He had to drop out of school after only one year to earn money for the family. Although he is still a teenager, he talks like a much older man.

"I am the breadwinner for our family," he told Bernama. "I've already lost two sisters. If anything happens to me, what will happen to my family?"

His disabled father can't work and his mother works as a cleaner about once a week. He also has a 15-year-old brother and another seven-year-old sister to look after.

At the camp of 2,500 run by Kinniya Jammiyathul Ulama (KJU), there are no counsellors to listen to the children talk about their fears and their grief.

Some local social workers arrange simple games for them while the children have improvised a slide out of a school desk and chair.

Asked how he and his brother feel after the tragedy, Musammil shrugged. "What is there to think about? It's our destiny."

The children at the centre could suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"We need counsellors," said KJU coordinator Saraf Din, who is also the principal of the college. "There are so many people living with grief."

Women Empowerment and Social Welfare Minister Sumedha G. Jayasena announced yesterday that her ministry would send 120 trained counsellors to tsunami rehabilitation centres in Trincomalee, eastern Ampara and southern Hambantota, Matara and Galle, according to the "Daily News" today.

Nearly 500 people in Kinniya were killed by the tsunami, which is about half of the deaths in Trincomalee district. One hundred and fifty women were widowed and 100 children orphaned. One hundred people are still missing.

Water pipes were broken and water supply has not been restored to Kinniya, although some water is trucked in.

The government has supplied food but Saraf said it is not enough. Survivors of the tsunami also need clothing but he said they would not wear used clothing for fear of disease.

And whatever is sent should be on a large scale, for example, 5,000 sarungs, otherwise it would be difficult to distribute.

The principal told a visiting Malaysian Red Crescent Society fact-finding team that the centre needs medication and first aid training.

Meanwhile, the college cannot reopen until the tsunami survivors have moved to temporary sites elsewhere. It needs new computers, classroom furniture and toilets, which have all been damaged by the influx of 6,000 people at the height of the crisis.

As for the two brothers, Mujib is waiting for school to start and needs new books and a school bag.

"If I had a bicycle, I could go around selling vegetables as I did before," said Musammil.

Posted by Nancy at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)

Linda Greene to talk about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome

January 02, 2005 [San Marcos Record]

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder touches the lives of many Americans every day.

The Veterans' Administration and mental health agencies estimate that one in six veterans are affected by the disorder. Linda Greene hopes to shine a light on the problem and possible ways to address it

when she speaks to local military veterans here this week.

Greene will talk to the local Chapter 923 of the Vietnam Veterans of America Wednesday in the back dining room of Luby's Cafeteria. Dinner is at 6 p.m. with Greene's presentation at 7 p.m.

Anyone interested is invited too attend the dinner and the presentation.

"Like Agent Orange and our concern for P.O.W./M.I.A.s, the Vietnam Veterans of America has been concerned about the debilitating effect of P.T.S.D. on veterans and their families," said Rod Metzler, president of the local Vietnam veterans organization.

Although the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder became popular after the Vietnam Conflict, it was known as "shell shock" during World War I and World War II and "combat fatigue" in the Korean Conflict

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder , however, is not limited to the military. It may occur in anyone having lived through a severely stressful situation and is recognized by the American Psychological Association.)

Since 2000, Greene has held the position of the community director of DeGeorge at Union Station, a permanent housing facility for homeless veterans, a division of the Housing Corporation of Greater Houston.

Prior to her directorship with "DeGeorge" Greene worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs Homeless Veterans program in housing for homeless.

A former Red Cross worker during the Vietnam era, Greene has been a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Houston Chapter 343, since 1989. Her other affiliations include; Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary, American Legion Auxiliary and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary.

She serves on the national advisory board of the Task Force for Homeless Veterans in Washington D.C. She is the founder and current president of Task Force for Houston Homeless Veterans.

She serves as the State Special Advisor from the Texas State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America for veterans incarcerated for the past 10 years and regularly attends weekend meetings and coordinates workshops in various state prisons with veterans incarcerated.

Among her awards are the "Navajo Nation Medal for Valor" in 1993 in recognition of work with homeless veterans in Windowrock, Arizona. She received the "Hear O' Israel International Award."

Greene was inducted into the "Chapel of Four Chaplains Legion of Honor" and in 2003, received their "National Humanitarian Award."

Posted by Nancy at 10:23 AM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2005

Needs of troubled girls getting more attention

January 12, 2005
By Monica Mendoza

PHOENIX -- Collett spent her teen years moving from one shelter to another after she told state officials she was sexually abused at home.

She lived in at least a dozen from ages 16 to 18, and each time she landed in a new facility there were new counselors and new rules. She never fit in.

"I wish they would have had a group home that was specifically geared toward girls who were abused," said Collett, 21, of Tempe, Ariz. "I wanted something where people understood why I was there."

But most juvenile justice, mental health and child-welfare programs aren't designed for girls.

Boys represent the majority of children in the juvenile justice system, and behavior management programs, which use consequences and rewards, are better suited for them. Girls respond better to one-on-one relationships with counselors, trust and therapy, experts say.

"Girls have been getting the short shrift for a long time," said Marie Dils, policy manager for the Arizona Office of Policy, Strategic Diversity and Equity.

Dils and other Arizona child advocates are leading a national effort to restructure juvenile justice programs for girls, radically shifting the way girls are treated.

This week, more than 400 counselors, youth advocates, probation officers and group-home operators from across the country will meet in Scottsdale, Ariz., to kick off the National Girls Initiative, a conference that aims to shape programs and policies that affect services for girls.

The Girls Initiative is calling for gender-specific programs for girls in the areas of sex education and sexuality, vocational training and education and in mental health services.

"Times are changing," said Maria Garin-Jones, director of youth services for the Child Welfare League of America, a co-sponsor of the conference. "The needs of girls have changed."

A girl may drink or take drugs to hide the pain of sexual abuse. She may cut herself because of depression or post-traumatic stress syndrome connected to abuse. But she is generally punished for her delinquency and not helped to recover from the abuse.

In recent years, the number of girls across the country in the juvenile justice system is on the rise, sparking the discussion about why girls are being arrested. In 2000, girls made up 28 percent of all juvenile arrests, up from 19 percent in 1990, according to the Child Welfare League of America.

Researchers studying girls in detention found that more than 80 percent had a history of trauma, with at least one time in a psychiatric hospital, most likely for a suicide attempt. In Arizona, about half of the 16,000 girls in the state's court system were picked up for running away.

In a recent report by the Girls' Justice Initiative, girls in detention in five states said their biggest frustration was over "dead time" spent in detention with no access to mental health services.

Girls know they need help and start acting out when they don't get it, said Alyssa Rapisarda, clinical supervisor at the Florence Crittenton group home in Phoenix. The 40-bed facility is divided into four groups so counselors work with the same group of girls every day. It's an attempt to build relationships. But time is always limited, and therapy often short-term.

Collett said she felt like she was being punished for being abused. She was depressed. She cut and burned herself.

"I was confused," she said. "I just felt like I was a bad child."

She attended group counseling aimed at girls who drank alcohol and took drugs. At one facility, she took mandatory drug tests every week. But Collett never drank or took drugs.

Today, she works for a vocational recovery program for adults with mental illness. But the road has been tougher and longer than it needed to be, she said.

"It's taken me a long time to figure out that I'm not a bad person," Collett said

Posted by Nancy at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)