MN Trauma Project and our partners were thrilled at the turnout for our May 17 event: “Acknowledging Our Brokenness: An evening of reflection on trauma’s impact for individuals and the community.” More than 150 community members turned out to the Wilder Foundation’s auditorium to hear our four speakers discuss the impact of trauma from their unique perspectives. It was our first foray into organizing a public event and it was a good start.
The vision for the event was to spark conversation in the community about the importance of naming trauma at the individual, community and systemic levels. For MN Trauma Project, that means we have a lofty goal of making Minnesota a trauma-informed state where professionals in education, law enforcement, healthcare, government and other human services stop asking the question, “What’s wrong with you?” and start asking, “What happened to you?” It’s a conversation that needs to happen in professional settings and around dinner tables. And it’s a conversation our four speakers bravely and succinctly addressed in their talks on May 17:
The evening began with a reflection from Laureen Peltier, author and PTSD expert. We wanted Laureen to go first because we hoped her compelling story would draw the audience in on an emotional level, and our instinct was right. Laureen, author of the book Hungry for Touch: A Journey from Fear to Desire, started the program on a highly personal note. Demonstrating the kind of vulnerability that’s critical to the healing process from trauma, Laureen described the life-long impact of the childhood abuse she suffered, and her holistic journey of recovery from PTSD.
Our second speaker was Hector R. Matascastillo, MSW, LICSW, LSSW. After serving in the U.S. Army for 18 years, Hector completed a Master’s of Social Work degree program and now has his own practice working with veterans, men, women and children. Hector, who should also write a book, shared a moving description of what it’s like for a veteran to try to reintegrate into society when he or she is suffering from unresolved trauma. His presentation, rendered effectively in the second person, invited audience members into the mind of someone experiencing frightening PTSD symptoms that can put them at risk of harming themselves or others. His presentation wove through the criteria for PTSD and ended with reflections on how people heal, particularly through the healing model of EMDR. As a member of the military myself, I found Hector’s presentation to be haunting and sadly, deeply accurate.
Rick Terzick, executive director of Cochran Recovery Services Inc., was next. Following the lead of our first two speakers, Rick used his personal experience in recovery to personalize what it’s like for someone with unresolved trauma to seek treatment for drug and alcohol use disorders. Rick walked the audience through his journey to understand how critical it is for people with substance use disorders to dig into the unresolved trauma underlying their use if they’re going to have a successful recovery. Cochran Recovery Services is a pioneer in trauma-informed chemical dependency detox and treatment, and with the opioid epidemic headlining the news these days, it was a timely discussion.
Mark Sander, director of mental health for Hennepin County and Minneapolis Public Schools, rounded out our speaker line-up. In the short amount of time he had on our stage, Mark condensed the presentation he typically gives in day-long seminars to educators. Mark provided compelling data supporting the notion that the school system must address unresolved trauma in students if they’re to have any chance of learning. He provided tips and strategies for educators to bring trauma-informed practices into their classroom. For the many educators and education professionals in the audience, it was a riveting talk that could have gone on for hours longer. We hope to partner with Mark again in the future to dig more deeply into trauma-informed educational models.
If you missed the event, the four speakers and the panel discussion and audience questions are on our YouTube channel. We’d like to continue these important community conversations, and hope this will be the inauguration of a series of talks, panels and events about trauma’s effects on individuals and the community. Watch for information on upcoming installments on this series, and we hope to see you there.