June is PTSD Awareness Month—again. If I had my druthers, I'd do the ostrich thing and bury my head in the sand. Because PTSD Awareness Month is hard for me.
It brings back memories of the early days of my baby's life and the medical he endured as doctors and nurses labored to save him in 1982. It stirs up regret at not recognizing his mental anguish or finding the treatment he needed until 26 years later. It pains me to tell our family's story to parents of children who are struggling with trauma and watch them turn away from a reality they aren't yet ready to acknowledge.
But PTSD Awareness Month is not about my druthers. It is about sharing what's known about PTSD, and in my case about PTSD in children, so information is accessible to parents when they are ready.
So this month, instead of sticking my head in the sand, I'm writing another post about PTSD in children. I'm sharing truths about a preventable mental illness that affects far too many children around the world:
- Newborns do feel pain.
- Infants can remember trauma.
- Childhood trauma can develop into PTSD.
- PTSD in children who have suffered trauma can be prevented.
- Effective treatments for PTSD do exist.
- Children as young as 3 can be treated.
- If you think your child may have PTSD, seek treatment now.
- Adults with untreated childhood PTSD can be treated, too.
Also, I'm sharing favorite resources related to childhood trauma:
- Operation SAFE’s five lessons to improve resilience in the face of major disasters.
- First aid for trauma prevention fleshed out in Trauma-Proofing Your Kids by Dr. Peter Levine and Maggie Kline.
- Child life specialists, employed by almost all university and children’s hospitals, to prepare children for medical interventions.
- Does My Child Have PTSD? What to Do When Your Child Is Hurting from the Inside Out, by yours truly.
- The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
This post takes precedent over my druthers for one overarching reason.
- Somewhere, there are parents growing increasingly suspicious about the unusual behaviors they've observed in their children. They're beginning to realize those behaviors weren't caused because they were poor parents or because their kids are naughty, but for some other reason.
- Somehow, those parents will find this post, read it, and acknowledge that their children's behaviors are caused by PTSD.
- Some day, hopefully this day, those parents will be ready to help their children locate treatment to relieve the unresolved traumas they are grappling with.
I couldn't prevent my son's trauma or find the treatment he needed as soon as he needed it. But I can raise awareness so that you can do those things for a child you know and love. Which, as God gently reminds me when all I want to do is to stick my head in the sand, is a much better way to spend June than having my druthers.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Jolene Philo is the author of the Different Dream series for parents of kids with special needs. She speaks at parenting and special needs conferences around the country. The book she is working with Dr. Gary Chapman about using the five love languages in special needs families will be released in August of 2019.