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Southern Illinois caregivers get lesson in self-care when working with victims of trauma

The Southern Illinoisan - 7/26/2019

Jul. 26--CARTERVILLE -- Anyone who has sat through airline emergency instructions on a commercial airliner has been given the instructions on what to do if the oxygen masks drop. What do you do? Put your mask on before trying to help another person.

Dr. Matt Buckman, a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice, told those gathered at a free training sponsored by the Poshard Foundation and Prevent Child Abuse Illinois that caring for young victims of trauma is the same. Caregivers must take care of themselves in order to care for someone else.

"Trauma therapists often drop out of the field and do something totally different, like sell insurance," Buckman said Thursday morning at John A. Logan College.

This year's training was titled "The Cost of Helping -- Secondary Traumatic Stress, Compassion Fatigue, and Vicarious Trauma."

Thanks to the efforts of the Poshard Foundation and partners like Prevent Child Abuse Illinois, Resilient Southern Illinois and the Trauma Responsive Schools Initiative, more people are familiar with trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACE) and how they affect children.

The training focused on how those kinds of stresses can affect caregivers and how self-care can help alleviate that.

Acute trauma, in psychological terms, is a response to a single event of either intentional trauma or unintentional trauma with fear, helplessness or horror.

Secondary Traumatic Stress is indirect exposure to trauma through a firsthand account or narrative of a traumatic event.

Adverse childhood experiences are negative things that happen during the first 18 years of life, such as child abuse or neglect, living with someone with mental illness or substance use disorder, parental separation, death of parent or sibling or having a parent in jail. When a child is faced with an ACE, it causes stress.

"It's really hard to understand other people's perspectives because there are often multiple realities," Buckman said.

He showed a picture that shows both a donkey and seal. Most of the audience saw the donkey first. Around 20% saw the seal first. He added that each person's reality is their truth and their perception is their reality.

Buckman added that one of the biggest health concerns is the effect of concealed ACEs.

Caregivers go into a helping profession for a reason. Often that reason is they have suffered some of the same ACEs as the people they help.

Also, the numbers can be disheartening. For example, one out of four girls experience some sort of sexual assault or abuse. That means three out of four girls do not experience sexual assault, but no one ever hears those statistics.

"Burnout can come from not knowing that what you are doing is making a difference," Buckman said.

He asked if participants were satisfied with what they were doing to care for themselves. Many of them chuckled.

"Maybe we should use some of the same tools we teach other people to use," Buckkman said.

Some of those things are deep breathing, getting enough rest, eating a healthy diet, exercise, doing something you enjoy, daydreaming or trying new things.

"Where you were when you started may not be where you are every day," Buckman said.

He asked participants to write down several values and told them to use their values as a compass to lead them to who they want to be.

"There is a cost of caring for another person. Taking care of the caregiver is essential to be able to care for others," Buckman said.

Brittney Hale of Prevent Child Abuse Illinois said she is happy to co-sponsor the event.

"We want to make sure we offer free training to give caregivers what they need to continue in their fields," Hale said.

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