I’m off to New York City. Something horrible happened some weeks ago. Another mass shooting took place. This time by a medical doctor who lost it. With rifle in hand, he opened fire and wounded seven innocent people. He targeted and killed another physician.
The doctor he especially wanted dead did not come to work that day. Before the shootings, he sent a rambling letter to a local newspaper complaining about having been robbed of his chances to excel in his practice because he received negative evaluations and was fired from his job.
After unleashing his venom, he committed suicide and took to the grave his twisted logic that created so much pain and mourning in a place of healing. His murderous rampage traumatized colleagues, patients and members of the diverse community who connected with the mission of the hospital. I had already been contracted to provide diversity training to the hospital staff.
In view of the crisis, the leadership of the hospital asked that I focus on cross-cultural perspectives on trauma-informed care (TIC) as a way of making sense of this tragedy. I will meet with attending and resident physicians, multidisciplinary health and human service professionals, psych resident physicians and other clinical staff. My job will be to introduce cross-cultural perspectives to enhance their effective use of strength-base, trauma-informed care in their areas of specialization.
Relevance to Micronesia
What does this have to do with Guam anyway?
In my preparation for working with the hospital teams in the Bronx, I realized that trauma-informed care is not just for victims of mass shootings. Guam and Micronesia have had more than its share of trauma-related health care challenges. The sad reality is this: Traumatic experiences, especially early in life, are important root causes of addictions, criminal behavior and illnesses in adult life. Childhood traumas often cause physical and mental health risks and decreased life expectancy. Health care costs sky rocket exponentially without optimizing outcomes, frustrating the best hopes of both providers and those they hope to help.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente was able to assess a link between childhood ill-treatment and health problems and complications later in life. Adverse experiences include physical or emotional neglect; growing up in a home where a family member is incarcerated; having caretakers who are substance abusers; seeing a mother get beat up; being sexually abused; sharing living space with members of families with mental problems. The study of 17,000 informants who voluntarily shared the numbers of stressors they experienced as children and the kind of health challenges they were facing as adults indicated that trauma-informed care is essential to make people well as adults. The ACE study documented that almost two-thirds of the participants reported at least one dysfunctional experience in their childhood. One in five had three or more stressors.
What is trauma-informed care? It has to do with becoming aware that the number of traumatic events in childhood has a direct correlation to the types of illnesses that adults will suffer later in life. Taking care of symptoms devoid of addressing the traumas which triggered health problems is not enough. TIC brings the patient into the healing process as full partners. An essential part of the treatment is to create a safe place from which patients can participate in empowered discovery of their strengths that can facilitate full recovery.
Compartmentalized treatment will not help victims of trauma in childhood to heal fully as adults and often leads to retraumatization. We need to see people as whole beings, intelligent and capable of assisting in their own healing.
The challenge of creating awareness about providing trauma-informed care is relevant here.
Guam, in particular, and Micronesia, in general, need to consider how it can improve healing interventions as a result of trauma factors destroying the lives of our residents and boosting the cost of health care on our islands.
Effective collaboration between public and private sectors to grow the competencies of health care providers to leverage strength-based trauma-informed care can contribute greatly to healing, cut rising health care costs and reduce the negative effects of childhood trauma. Obesity, drug and alcohol addiction, child abuse and high occurrences of mental health conditions is the ransom price we pay for a highly specialized and “siloed” approach to health care. Perhaps it is time to take a serious look at an approach, which is fundamentally similar to traditional indigenous healing practice.
Preparing for my journey to work in New York with health care providers has added value to my quest to continuously learn new and better ways of solving problems here in my adopted homeland of Guam. I urge all health care professionals to Google “Trauma-Informed Care” on YouTube and the web to begin to grow your understanding and competencies in this promising holistic approach to healing.
Source: Google News : https://www.postguam.com/forum/featured_columnists/trauma-informed-care-needed-on-guam/article_1b6ba872-aa5c-11e7-9bef-b393d57bec8c.html