National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse
National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse
- Feature Article -
EDITOR'S NOTE: Here are a few recent stories and feature articles from a variety of sources that are related to the kinds of issues we cover on our web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly, bringing you just a few of the featured articles on the web site.
Child Abuse – the root of many of life's problems Hidden in Plain Sight
by Tracey Maxfield - NAASCA Ambassador for B.C. Canada
Childhood abuse is the intentional, repeated physical, sexual and/or psychological mistreatment, harm or neglect of a child.
The abuser is usually an adult e.g. a parent, guardian, caregiver, family member or a trusted adult in the community e.g. neighbour, school coach, teacher; however sometimes the abuser can be an adolescent youth who is known to the child e.g. sibling, cousin, babysitter.
Childhood abuse includes Shaken Baby Syndrome, trafficking and exploitation, exposure to domestic violence, maltreatment and neglect e.g. no food or shelter, and exposure to traumatic experiences such as parental substance abuse, criminal activity, etc.
Approximately 7.5 million child abuse reports and 4.1 million child maltreatment reports are filed each year in the USA.
The financial cost of child abuse and neglect in the USA is a staggering $585 billion (American Society Positive Care of Children).
Experts tell us that the immediate effects of child abuse can include difficulty concentrating, managing emotions, trust issues and isolation, feelings of hopelessness, lack of self worth, anger, shame, and feelings of betrayal. If no help is provided to the child, the risk of developing a mental disorder such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse increases significantly during adolescence and adulthood.
We also know that adverse childhood experiences (also known as ACEs) such as child abuse/neglect are known to set the stage for mental and physical illnesses in adulthood. The more traumatic events or ACEs a child experiences, the more likely he/she will struggle later. Half of all children in the USA have experienced at least one ACE.
But have you ever wondered why so many adult survivors of childhood abuse struggle with mental illness/disorders?
Brain growth and development is influenced by three factors: genetics, early environment (in utero) and current environment. A child develops his/her identity and self worth from relationships with others, natural abilities, experiences, and the environment. Identity formation is an important part of normal development and takes place across the lifespan.
However, a child's identity: sense of self, emotional and intellectual development, and feelings of safety and security is disrupted by trauma or ACEs because basic survival takes precedence over and uses resources allocated for normal child development.
Childhood abuse can cause permanent changes in the structure, size and chemical activity in the brain. The main areas affected are the areas involved in learning, problem solving, emotional regulation and assessing and responding to dangers in the environment. Disruptions in maturation of these areas, place children and teenagers at an increased risk of developing a mood disorder, anxiety, non-suicidal self injury (NSSI) and substance abuse disorders throughout their lifetime.
A child impacted by abuse becomes hypervigilant and hypersensitive to any changes in life, and consequently develop ineffective coping mechanisms because he/she feels unsafe, unloved and lack control. They find it hard to tap into positive emotions that can counteract negative ones.
Given that one in seven children experience abuse and one in four experience maltreatment, we will soon have an entire generation living with multiple mental illnesses and trying to make sense and function in a world that betrayed them.
Child abuse must end NOW!
In Blog #1 and #2 of this series, I talk about mental health, how the brain works, and the effect our current environment and how ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) affects brain growth and development and increases the likelihood of developing a mental illness.
Later Blogs describe some of the types of mental illness common in children, and effects to look for as caregivers.
Video & Blog #1
'What Is Mental/Brain Health, and Why Is It So Important?'
In the past few years, there has been a lot of dialogue about brain health or mental health. Many people still have difficulty acknowledging that brain/mental health is an essential component of physical health, of life, and consequently, those of us living with a mental illness, continue to be subjected to the myths, misconceptions and stigma that surrounds the topic of mental illness.
'Why Is There an Increase in Mental Illness in Kids?'
A review of ACEs and risk factors for mental illness. It seems every time we turn on the television or read the news headlines there is mention of another teenager who died by suicide or committed a crime while under the influence of drugs or was involved in a school shooting. Mental illness and suicide in children and teenagers are increasing rapidly, which begs the question: ‘why?'
'The Five Most Common Mental Illnesses in Children and Teenagers'
We know that 50 percent of all lifetime mental illnesses show signs and symptoms by age 14 and 75 per cent of all mental illnesses show signs and symptoms by age 24. Interestingly, of those diagnosed with a mental illness, 45 per cent meet the criteria for two or more other mental disorders e.g. A 15-year girl with major depressive disorder also has an eating disorder and an anxiety disorder.
Video & Blog #4
'Non-Suicidal Self Injury (NSSI) in Children and Teenagers'
Self-harm or Non-Suicidal Self Injury (NSSI) is a deliberate, self-inflicted injury to body tissue resulting in damage, but without any suicidal intent. The injury can be superficial e.g. skin tear, bruising or can be disfiguring with subsequent scarring to skin. There is some debate amongst healthcare professionals about whether deliberate self harm is really an attempt at suicide or a precursor to a suicide attempt. According to Laye-Gindhu and Schonert-Reichl (2005), NSSI frequently occurs in adolescents who, at other times, have contemplated or attempted suicide.
What you need to know about Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Conduct Disorder (CD) in children and teenagers. We've all watched television programs about children and teenagers who are ‘out of control' and sent to wilderness camps or military camps to ‘mend their ways,' and I am sure many of you commented that the parents or school was at fault and all the teenagers needed was discipline and rules to follow. But, is it really that simple?
On August 20, 2015, after enduring years of intense workplace stress, bullying and harassment, Tracey Maxfield, a hard working, highly skilled, caring and compassionate nurse, hurtled headfirst down into an abyss of darkness, despair, pain and sorrow (she affectionately named the rabbit hole).
Despite being no stranger to depression having made its acquaintance many times throughout the years, nothing could have prepared her for what was about to happen to her life, her heart, her soul, her very being.
'Escaping the Rabbit Hole: my journey through depression' is a brutally honest, raw, and vivid description of what life is like after experiencing an acute depressive episode.
Through a series of blog posts, journal entries and a letter to self, Tracey shares the excruciating emotional and physical pain she endured, the never-ending feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness and sadness which left her inert and unable to function, and her ongoing battle against DBS (death by suicide).
Every single day, she had to make a choice, to fight the battle to live, or to surrender and die. She chose to live, and so began her most difficult and challenging life journey yet, to try and escape the rabbit hole.
This book is a must read for anyone living with depression or caring for someone with depression, and for anyone who wants to know more about this greatly misunderstood mental health illness. Tracey shows us that words can be powerful and healing, and with time, it is possible to emerge from the rabbit hole of darkness and despair and reclaim your life.
This is a story of courage, of hope, and of never giving up.