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Substance Abuse Prevention: Trauma Informed Care

What does trauma informed care have to do with prevention? In my humble opinion, prevention is about caring; taking the time to understand someone, and the best way to do that is to take the time to learn about that person. It isn’t a quick fix, because we all know quick fixes are not meant to be permanent. It takes time, compassion, an emotional investment in each other, helping people to heal, allowing them to share, and being present for them.

Our world is in a continual process of evolving, changing with the times and needs of its people. Sometimes the change is beneficial and sometimes we do create, invent, and change things because we want that quick fix, but we don’t always take the time to determine the long-term effects e.g. Pharmaceuticals, tobacco, alcohol…

Many, many years ago doctors use to take time with their patients, they knew their patients’ children, spouses, and even extended family. That relationship is what would help them pinpoint what was going on with their patient. When was the last time you went to the doctor and even felt comfortable sharing what was going on in your life? My family’s physician is through the military base, and while our current physician is very nice and I do feel like I can talk to him, they often cycle in and out of the base every 2 to 4 years. In the last year I have seen three different physicians or nurse practitioners.

I went to a training a couple of years ago that really changed the way I think when it comes to problems. It was called “The Circle of Courage” and the presenter talked about the historical and generational trauma that the Native Americans have experienced over the last 200 years or more. Trauma is not just constrained to the Native Americans though, we have or will have experienced trauma in our lives, and those experiences will have an impact on us.

What really stuck in my head is the phrase that we often use when someone does something that we just cannot fathom or understand and we will often say “What is wrong with you?” What we really need to figure out though is what has happened to that person. When we say or think “What is wrong with you” that person then asks themselves “What is wrong with me,” and instead of focusing on the root cause of the problem they get wrapped up in self-blame. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating, we ALL make mistakes, sometimes we make small ones, but sometimes they are big. No matter what size mistake, use it to improve yourself, not self-berate, blame or even excuse your behavior.

Prevention is about improving things before they get bad, and trauma informed care is about improving on how we relate to each other, how we care for each other and become better, and more caring people. We can’t prevent youth from using drugs, alcohol or cigarettes until we learn why they are using them in the first place, and bad choices come from bad experiences. How can we help society evolve if we don’t take the time to understand first where we have been as a nation, as a country, as a state, as a city, as a neighborhood and as individuals. We need to put the effort in to help improve our nation it is not a quick fix but it isn’t impossible either.

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