Sunday, October 14, 2012

Creating a Childhood Wonderland

One of the most common stories I heard at the mental health consumer conference I attended this week was the story of childhood trauma. After suffering many years of mental illness and/or addition to cope with these unfortunate experiences, these brave people are working daily to face their past and continue on the path of long-term recovery. Every day, they work to be people who break the cycle of trauma in their families and communities.

While no one's childhood can be blemish-free -- a perfect childhood just isn't possible -- every adult, whether they have children of their own or not, should strive to create communities where children can live safely without fear of abuse and trauma.

Childhood is just so precious. We adults too often forget that truth and instead litter children's development years with the garbage of neglect, abuse and other preventable traumas. We owe it to the children in our lives to be more aware of our actions and words and save them the heartache and self-abuse that follows childhood trauma into adulthood.

If we too are victims of trauma, we must commit to take the steps necessary to recover from our own past traumatic experiences in order to be better parents and role models and break the cycle of trauma in our families and communities. This is not an easy or pain-free journey, but perhaps we all should be as self-reflective as the amazing people I met this week and confront the past in order to bring ourselves and children in our lives into a happier, healthier future.

I hope that the young girl in today's photograph sitting with a statue of Alice in Wonderland in Central Park is living a childhood filled with love and support and that trauma is missing from her life experiences so far. If this isn't the case, then I hope there is some adult in her life who observes the signs of trauma, mental health and substance use challenges early and provides her the recovery support and resources she needs to start healing before adulthood.

Unlike in Alice's fictional Wonderland, we don't have magic pills or cake to fix all of our problems. Instead, we must band together as a community consciously raise the next generation of young people to be loving, happy and resilient by being an example.

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