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Reply to "Children and Toxic Stress: The Discussion Continues"

Sorry for this spammy post, but: I think that a greater effort needs to be made to change public attitudes as well. Obviously this needs to start with the professions, as noted above, but it can't be limited to them. One of the hardest things about growing up with trauma is that you feel defective and isolated, and other people often treat you that way, too. As a traumatized child it gets harder to establish and maintain productive/trusting relationships, even though traumatized children need these very much. You feel angry and frustrated at your inability to connect with others, or to deal with common life situations the way "normal" people do. You're often given the message (both by family and by others you come in contact with) that this stuff is just ordinary life and you should be able to deal with it; yet you are very much aware of your own inability to do so. Obviously we should emphasize prevention and therapy so that problems are less likely to develop, but it's far too late for many children to avoid them. They are then labeled as mentally ill or some other term that takes away the legitimacy of their reactions and experiences, rather than being treated as people having a perfectly normal response to trauma and/or chronic stress. Even well-intentioned efforts to help usually give these children the message that something is broken about them that other people are trying to fix. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the denial by almost everyone of the legitimacy of your reactions can do at least as much damage as the initial trauma. I believe personally that this is often what leads to depression and associated reactions -- the dichotomy between how injured you feel and the disregard of others. This is especially the case with chronic stress, in which no specific event seems like a big enough deal to "cause" so much damage.

Too often, comprehensive support and guidance are expensive and difficult -- and however well-intentioned we are, they will probably always be more so than one-off treatments or symptom control. But all children want friends, interest, a kind word, acceptance by others. So the more people who understand how things really work -- whether they're doctors or social workers or teachers or parents or even just the other kids in your class -- the better, and the fewer children who feel both traumatized and rejected by society at large.

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