Trauma- The Scourge of Society

This morning I read on the NPR website Laura Staracheski’s reporting on Dr. Vincent Felitti’s research into childhood trauma and its’ effects on us in adult life. Dr. Felitti developed an ACE test to attempt to measure the amount of trauma experienced by adults as children. It’s fascinating stuff. I hope you read it, and not just to see what your score is.

infograph found at


Trauma- the emotional response to a terrible event– can manifest itself in many ways. Dr.Felitti’s research found the higher the ACE score, the more likely you are to suffer from such things as alcohol or drug abuse, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and severe obesity. Sadly, we “upstanding members of society” often ridicule people for suffering from many of these conditions, which further traumatizes them.

I see a great deal of trauma in our society, much of which is trauma heaped on top of trauma. We berate people for not measuring up to the standards of the lucky few who got to grow up without trauma, or who did well in spite of it. Personally, I think that sucks. I don’t think some are any better than others because they went to an Ivy League college or were blessed with good looks. And I sure as hell don’t see why the rest of us look up to those folks, especially when they’re poking fun at others to make themselves look good.

I have suffered a great deal of what is called secondary trauma in doing what I do. I have listened to children tell me about physical and sexual abuse. They tell me of how fearful they are when their father starts beating up their mother. Once a kid under the age of ten gave me a primer on how to make methamphetamine. I have listened to adults tell me of the abuse they suffered as children, and how the system further abused them by removing them from their parents and placing them with abusive foster parents, or by moving them from home to home to home.

So you’d think that agencies charged with investigating and dealing with child abuse would take steps to be supportive of their staff. That’s not what I’ve experienced. The general consensus in my agency is “put on your big girl panties and deal with it.” And we do, by walking out the door in droves. I’d be gone too if I had somewhere to go.

Trauma is eating away at our society. Over a billion dollars in stolen property was reported to law enforcement in Florida in 2013. The Florida Dept of Law Enforcement has an annual budget of $3oo million. The state also spends that much each year to investigate child abuse and neglect. In fiscal year 2011, Florida spent almost $700 million on mental health care, and it was far from what was needed. Want to know the largest psychiatric facility in Florida? The Miami-Dade County Jail.

Those are just SOME of the costs for ONE state in the US that are incurred because of trauma.

from Body and Mind Balance
from Body and Mind Balance

So you think we oughtta do something about it? 

OK! I’m listening! What can I, Joe or Jane citizen, do to change the tide?

It’s easy: Stop being a jerk to others. 

The Dalai Lama said it in a nicer way, “If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.” You may not like homeless people or drug addicts or fat women, folks on welfare and food stamps, or those at the food pantry, and that’s your right. Just keep that bit of information to yourself. No, don’t even share it with your friends. That needs to be your little secret. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Quit making everything a war! The War on Hunger may catch your attention, but it’s just not the same as the war on ISIS. With ISIS, somebody needs killing. With hunger? Not so much.

And when you see people who are suffering the effects of trauma, encourage them to get treatment. Treatments DO work, but many people don’t seek treatment due to either a lack of funds or because of the stigma associated with treatment.

So how about today we each make a point of being kind to one another? It may not make things better, but at least it will prevent them from getting worse.


30 thoughts on “Trauma- The Scourge of Society

    1. I am personally convinced that if we spent the money to address trauma and its effects on people, we’d save a whole lot of money in our government budgets each year.

  1. When going through “difficult” times with my teens, one valuable lesson learned was to separate the person from the “deed”. Putting that another way ……….. you can love the person without necessarily loving what they do. So often we combine the two factors and stop loving because of what they have done. It is so important to understand the difference ………. which can then be shown in the form of compassion towards people whose lifestyle we may not like or understand such as poverty, drug addicted, homeless, suicidal etc. etc.

    1. Absolutely. The same holds true with the families I work with. I may not like what you’ve done, but I’m still going to treat you with respect.

  2. Very thoughtful article. Sometimes it’s far easier to judge than to put yourself in somebody’s shoes. I like your advice about just keeping those thoughts to yourself.

  3. The shift towards war on… started with Nixon. Johnson had a program called Great Society, which was an expansion of FDR’s safety net concepts. Nixon turned that into the War on Poverty. Reagan turned the War on Poverty into a war on the poor. But since Nixon, we’ve had wars on just about anything and everything.

    These wars don’t work. The War on Drugs for example, has been an abysmal failure in numerous ways. It has had no impact on drug use, encouraged violence and mass murder on a grand scale – all across the globe, increased incarceration 10 fold, stripped us of our Civil Liberties, turned our police forces into combat teams and drained our national treasure. Narcotics are certainly a social and legal problem – and have been since the end of the Civil War – but our current approach has done far more harm than good.

    As always, great post. Keep up the good work, and I will read the article. It’s an issue that concerns me greatly.

    AFWIW – this article speaks to the impact of trauma on Humans. Those of us who have or work with rescue animals can give chapter and verse on the effects of trauma on our dogs and cats. Poor Jack is 5 years removed from his life as a puppy in Georgia, but 1 day with the dog will tell you that he still carries the scars.

    1. Oh don’t even get me started on traumatized animals. It’s one of the reason why these fly-by-night rescuers scare the bejeezus out of me. You may mean well, but if you don’t know how to work with a traumatized animal, there’s a good chance you’re going to hurt that animal more than help him.

  4. A great and thought provoking read, I’m with the Dalia Lama on this too ““If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.”” But I’d be tempted to add “or listen to them”

    1. Oh yeah! I can’t tell you the number of people who I’ve listened to once who have called me again and again, just because they needed that connection with someone who could hear what they were saying.

  5. We are all connected and when harm comes to one, it traumatizes at least 10 others in some form or fashion…Nothing in our world happens in a vacuum, every action sets into motion a series of effects! I wish more people lived by the motto…”if you can’t help, at least do no harm.”

  6. I have a little plastic plaque next to my front door that reads, “Grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins”. It’s much like one I remember, given to me in the mid 60s by my aunt, and when I saw it at a yard sale I scooped it up. She had bought the original from one of the Native American missions which made a living by making and selling cheap plastic items that her church supported.

    My aunt was also a social worker in Pittsburgh for the state of Pennsylvania for 43 years, from early WWII to the 1980s, through the post-war and Civil Rights era and the years when the steel mills all closed in Pittsburgh and no one had a job, including many family members, and everyone needed something. Everyone always needed something. She retired because she had developed several critical cancers, and things had not changed inside or outside of the home in all the years she had worked to help people. She continued buying the things various schools and missions made as her last effort to help.

    I am glad she gave me this cheap little plastic item at that point in my life. That was not what the world was like then around me, and I was glad to see that I really didn’t have to be hard and critical, and hoped that people would think that they didn’t really know me before criticizing me as well. I also began Catholic school then, in a day when you helped people where they were, without judgement, though that changed and I fell away from it.

    In truth, we can never really walk a mile in anyone else’s moccasins, and we always need to remember that we can only see the world through our own experiences, and that others may carry far more than we will ever know.

    The quote does not originate as Native American wisdom, as tribal scholars will tell you, but from a poem, “Judge Softly”, written by Mary T. Lathrap in 1895. It contains a number of things I also heard growing up, including “there but the grade of God go you and I”. I don’t usually link in a comment without asking, but this is not commercial so I hope it’s okay:

    Its funny, I look at this little plaque every time I come in my door and I’ve always intended to write a little essay about it. Thank you for inspiring me to put my thoughts on paper. Thank you for doing what you do. Most of us could not walk in your moccasins.

  7. Well, it’s no surprise to me that I scored a 9. Doctors are just now figuring out what many of us who have lived through trauma have always known. This is funny to me–in an incredibly sad and angry kind of way. As many others have stated above–my experiences have made me a much less judgmental and understanding person. The universe rolls the dice and we are born into different situations–none of us get to choose whether we grow up in a Beaver Cleaver house or the Manson Mansion. But we do get to choose how we treat others and understanding that, is an important part of empathy. Something we are very much lacking in this country and probably throughout the world.

  8. Interesting. I thought I would score worse, but we were not poor. We had food, education, books. Two out of three of us came out okay. Sadly, the third was lost to drugs and just plain weirdness.

  9. Before making my post today I hadn’t seen your post here and it seems we both have trauma on the brain! If you have the time I think aspects of this will resonate with you and blend nicely with your post here! I am a first gen survivor of “dysfunctional” childhood trauma. It’s taken many years of therapy and self improvement to reprogram from it. The abuse you outline here is definitely intergenerational.

  10. it made me speechless at the first moment… and it’s something we should keep in your minds…I never try to judge, but I try to help… and if it is just a hug or to be there to listen…

  11. This is very attention-grabbing, You are an overly professional blogger.
    I’ve joined your feed and stay up for looking for more of your great post.
    Also, I’ve shared your website in my social networks

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