Basic Self-Care Practices to Foster Your Mental Health 2/28/22

“Basic Self-Care Practices to Foster Your Mental Health” comes to us from a guest blogger: Eleanor Wyatt.

Taking care of your mental health is critical if you hope to lead a fulfilling life. And one of the best ways to ensure you prioritize mental health is to create a self-care routine that you abide by each day.

This routine should include habits, activities, and perspectives that foster your body, mind, and spirit. From adjusting your financial goals to starting a fitness regimen, changing your bedtime, to taking a weekend getaway, there are endless ways to improve and maintain your mental wellbeing. Here are a few ideas:

Consider Your Finances

Financial security plays a prominent role in an overall sense of safety and wellbeing in life. If you find yourself worried about finances, you may also see your depression or anxiety rise and perhaps turn to unhealthy or excessive vices to lessen the stress. If that’s the case, it’s time to take some action. The goal doesn’t necessarily have to be wealthy but to not live paycheck to paycheck, with debt lingering over your head.

It is essential to do two things:

  1. Get out of debt.
  2. Save for the rainy days.

One of the most popular ways to get out of debt is the debt snowball method, where you make minimum payments on all debts except your smallest balance owed, which you attack with not only the minimum amount but all extra cash you can throw at it.

When you pay off a debt, you roll over that minimum payment to your next debt until they are all paid off. Simultaneously, you should be saving for a three- six-month emergency fund. If you own a home and have equity in your home, you can refinance for a reduced mortgage payment or free up cash to put towards that savings fund.

Get the Help You Need 

If you find yourself barely keeping your head above water, don’t wait to get some professional help. A counselor can help you see the forest from the trees and work through any mental health struggles.

Check your insurance coverage to determine what options you have regarding receiving mental health services. For instance, Medicare Part B covers some services. Regardless of your plan, it’s essential to review your policy and know what is covered annually.

Schedule Self-Care

Life gets busy, and so quickly, we can find we have neglected to do anything we enjoy for the sake of getting things done. Do not let days pass without making time for the things you love, and that restore you.

Whether you need time with family or alone or like to go for hikes or play a game, make sure to plan for it. Schedule the activities that bring you joy by writing them into your calendar and make sure to prioritize them in your day. This is especially important during the winter months when mental health concerns are on the up and up.

Exercise Most Days    

Very few things have an impact on mental health the way exercise does. Within moments of starting physical fitness, you can notice an instant shift in mood, increased ability to concentrate, and an elevation of low self-confidence. If you exercise most days for at least 30 minutes a day, you can see long-term improvements in depression and anxiety symptoms.

Develop Good Sleep Habits 

Catching some restful ZZZs is critical to maintaining tip-top physical and mental health. Not only is sleep essential to overall recovery from the previous day, but it helps rejuvenate every aspect of your being. Make it a priority to get enough sleep and restful and uninterrupted sleep. Here are some tips to getting the restorative shut-eye you need:

  • Turn off all screens at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Design your room to be a safe, relaxing place.
  • Read a good book, assemble a puzzle, or knit before bed.
  • Stretch before hopping into bed.
  • Practice some breathing exercises and meditation techniques.

Make your mental health a priority. Don’t let things like financial worries, depression, or anxiety overpower your life. Get out of debt, save money, seek any professional help you need, and be sure to check your policy to see what your policy covers. Take bold strides by scheduling self-care, exercising, and getting some good sleep. Keep looking for other ways to bring peace to your body and mind!

Thanks for creating and sending, Eleanor! We are open to guest bloggers anytime. Submit your entires via email to: Mingie Song

May Your Day Be Sprinkled with HOPE,

Melissa Adamchik, MA, LPP, Executive Director, Tristate Trauma Network

Cincinnati City Council Meeting 2/24/22

Good afternoon, Mayor Pureval and City Council members,

I stand before you today as the Executive Director of the Tristate Trauma Network, a grass-roots initiative that developed approximately 8 years ago out of a need for our mental health professionals to better understand, and to provide better care for, trauma survivors. This came from and was driven by the mental health agencies in the Greater Cincinnati area. It has grown from an advisory group to a true network of professionals, not just in the mental health arena, but in all areas of social services: homeless services, developmental disabilities services, juvenile justice, peer recovery support, to highlight a few; and in speech, occupational, and massage therapy, as well as in education. And we didn’t go looking for these folks, they found us out of NEED, a dire need to understand and help the individuals they serve on a daily basis who’ve experienced trauma. You’ve heard the stats by now, over 70% of the general population has experienced an adverse childhood event that affects them well into adulthood. If you look to your right and to your left and then look within, that’s either you and 1 person next to you or both the people sitting next to you. I have always said this is an “us” phenomenon, not a “them” phenomenon. But there are some groups who are overrepresented, as you’ve heard from others here today. If you’ve been through a trauma, you know how that feels. I, too, know how that feels, but I had the “luxury” of experiencing trauma as an adult, not a child. When I think about what I went through, and I think about all the children I’ve worked with as a mental health therapist in my career in community mental health for 20 years, I know the pain it is causing our children in this community. I see it in their eyes, in their behaviors: in their acting out and shutting down, in their tears, in their anger, in their fear that doesn’t go away, and in their worldviews.

Exactly two years ago, I stood before a group in Columbus and tried, along with some others, to put a sense of urgency to declaring a state of emergency on childhood trauma. I told them, “this is the time, we can’t wait any longer, and we are ready.” Throw a pandemic into the equation and two years later, we are ALL worse for the wear. Our children are suffering more and still can’t get the help they need. Additionally, the adults serving them (teachers, mental health professionals, social workers, therapists of all kinds, and parents) are over-stressed too and need more support.

What I know, in my unique position, is that there are thousands of professionals dedicated to this cause, and thousands of others who want to learn more and do better by trauma survivors. We have the formula. But it takes money and time, and we run short on both. YOU have the ability to bring this to the forefront of the city, to make it a priority, to be the catalyst for relief from the emotional and physical pain that comes with toxic stress and trauma. I urge you to use your positions to do just that. Thank you.

Melissa Adamchik, MA, LPP, Executive Director of the Tristate Trauma Network

Issues That Matter: How is Trauma Tied to Substance Abuse? 2/4/22

This entry comes to us from Heidi Bitsoli at Sunshine Behavioral Health. Thank you, Heidi, for sharing your research on this topic!

How Is Trauma Tied to Substance Abuse?  

Numerous studies and scientific reviews confirm the well-established connection between trauma and substance abuse. Much of it has to do with how the brain responds to traumatic events such as an accident, abuse, or the death of a loved one.

What Is Trauma?

The general definition of trauma is an emotional response to a distressing event that is dangerous, frightening, or violent. The response can be triggered in the person who directly experienced the distress or someone who witnessed it. Trauma can result from a single emotionally disturbing event (acute trauma), repeated exposure to the ordeal (chronic trauma), or multiple distressing events (complex trauma).

How Trauma Affects the Brain

In an attempt to protect you from the distressing emotions of a traumatic event, the brain shuts off certain functions. Brain functions also become dysregulated and interfere with your ability to cope following the event. Important parts of the brain affected are the amygdala, medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), and hippocampus. These regions are responsible for functions such as memory, learning, and response to stress. Swift protective reaction by the brain to suppress memories often makes it difficult for survivors of trauma to put their experiences into context.

Signs of Trauma in Adults

Children and adults experience and encounter traumatic events, but studies show that children are far less prepared to deal with them. That means the long-term effects of unresolved trauma often continue to play out in their lives into adulthood. While acute physical effects of trauma are short-lived, the emotional and psychological effects tend to persist. Common signs or symptoms seen in adults include:

  • Flashbacks (associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD)
  • Re-living the event repeatedly, leading to retraumatization
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Nightmares
  • Dissociation (mental escape)
  • Negative changes in behavior, e.g., social isolation, avoidance, or loss of emotional control
  • Feeling ashamed, guilty, afraid, emotionally numb, or worthless
  • Psychological problems, e.g., anxiety, depression, PTSD, or chronic insomnia
  • Difficulty with attachment in relationships or turbulent relationships

You can experience these symptoms whether the event recently occurred or happened during childhood. But everyone responds to trauma differently and some show a great level of resilience.

Ways People Cope with Traumatic Events

There are adaptive (healthy) and maladaptive (unhealthy) ways of dealing with trauma related to physical or sexual abuse, neglect, losing a parent or child, or witnessing a homicide. Positive coping skills include asking for emotional support from your family, confronting your feelings, practicing self-care, staying socially connected, and accepting that the trauma happened to you.

While some individuals make progress with these coping strategies, others find it difficult to get past the trauma. They may resort to substance abuse to escape emotional pain. These are unhealthy ways to cope and can lead to substance dependence and addiction.

Correlation Between Trauma and Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is described as using illicit drugs, misusing prescription drugs, and drinking too much on a frequent or long-term basis. Negative thoughts or feelings and mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression, are risk factors of substance use. Incidentally, all these factors are associated with trauma.

A high percentage of people battling substance abuse suffered trauma in childhood. Furthermore, the rates of alcohol and drug use disorders are higher among men and women reporting sexual abuse.

Many of these people have yet to process the memories and feelings concerning the event. Unprocessed trauma is an underlying reason why people who suffered such an intense ordeal drink or use drugs to cope. They self-medicate with substances to numb emotional pain.

Drinking and drug use are also associated with euphoria that comes from the release of dopamine in the brain. However, drug and alcohol abuse does not resolve trauma. The pleasure these behaviors provide is short-lived. If anything, it can lead to heavier substance use and addiction, worsen the symptoms of mental disorders, and leave you less able to cope.

Healing with Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Trauma and substance abuse are two different things. One is an emotional experience that is psychologically damaging; the other is an unhealthy coping behavior that can turn into a substance use disorder (SUD), or addiction. It’s not unusual for these conditions to co-occur and relate to each other. They are also jointly associated with PTSD.

Because of the strong correlation, it is necessary to receive comprehensive treatment tailored to your needs. While individual treatments are available for trauma and addiction, you can receive them simultaneously. Doctors call it dual-diagnosis treatment. If the inability to cope with trauma is the root cause of substance use, then processing the disturbing events may help curtail the need to self-medicate with addictive substances.

Therapists also seek to help you manage triggers of substance use, such as negative thoughts and feelings about your experience. You’ll also learn positive coping skills to manage PTSD. Treatments and therapies used to accomplish these goals are as follows:

Addiction treatment

Starts with medical detox to eliminate harmful chemicals and toxins in the body. Treatment continues with behavioral therapies, mainly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is an effective science-based therapy for anxiety and depression. Family therapy may be initiated to counsel loved ones on how to provide you with support.

Trauma therapy

Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is a standard treatment for PTSD associated with childhood trauma. Another crucial aspect of recovery is processing the memories of the traumatic experience. Your therapist can try to accomplish this using eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). There’s also trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT), which involves combining trauma-sensitive techniques with cognitive-behavioral techniques to promote healing.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

The unfortunate event that left you traumatized does not have to define the rest of your life. Healing from it can seem impossible at times, particularly when addiction is involved. Through self-compassion and seeking treatment, there’s hope for putting your life back together.

Sources – Substance Use, Childhood Traumatic Experience, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in an Urban Civilian Population – Coping with a Traumatic Event – How Can Trauma Affect the Brain? -Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – Self-Help and Coping – When Trauma Slips into Addiction – Traumatic Stress and Substance Abuse Problems – Dual Diagnosis Addiction Treatment – Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD

*Notes from Melissa: If you need treatment, please consider using our Agency Members (logos and links to their websites are on our Members page), who have committed themselves to practicing more trauma-informed and trauma-responsive care. You may also consult our Trauma Therapist Listing found on our Resources page. Your care and wellbeing is important. Always research a provider or agency for goodness of fit with your needs before engaging in services.

May your day, no matter what part of it you are currently in, show you that there is HOPE around every corner and sometimes it’s right in front of you, perhaps in the eyes of the person you next meet!

Melissa Adamchik, MA, LPP

Executive Director, Tristate Trauma Network

Trauma is the Real Epidemic 12/10/21

This entry is brought to us by Ronald Hummons, local Cincinnati man and trauma survivor/warrior who is trying to bring public awareness to the childhood trauma epidemic, especially as it exists in the Black and Brown communities, of which he is a part. I’ll let his words speak first here, then give some thoughts after.

Ronald’s Entry: “Did you know that childhood trauma could translate into low productivity, high turnover, sinking morale and rising health care costs? There has been a lack of response by elected officials to join the fight in declaring a State of Emergency on Childhood Trauma. The lack of response is disheartening. Childhood Trauma impacts the lives of many; directly and indirectly.

As I continue to research Childhood Trauma, the more I realize that it isn’t just one agency’s responsibility. Ohio has a history of cutting funding to the very agency that is supposed to service the victims of childhood trauma. Did you know that our state spends 1.3% of the overall budget on Child Protective Services, while spending 2.9% of the overall budget on the Corrections Department. As an entrepreneur, I know that providing a solution by addressing the Childhood Trauma that has created more costs to the State would allow for finances to be allocated differently.

The studies on childhood trauma represents a direct correlation of untreated trauma with the increase of police interactions. Knowing this, our lawmakers continue to fail to address childhood trauma to help lessen the need for such a large budget. After researching, I found the following facts:
● Most people in the Ohio and the rest of the country have at least one (Adverse Childhood Experience) ACE, and that people with an accumulation of childhood adversities — including divorce, racism, living with an alcoholic parent, and physical abuse — have a higher risk of adult onset of chronic health problems such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, suicide, and alcoholism.
● Toxic stress caused by ACEs damages the function and structure of kids’ developing brains
● Toxic stress caused by ACEs affects every part of the body, leading to autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis, as well as heart disease, breast cancer, lung cancer, etc.,
● Toxic stress caused by ACEs can alter how our DNA functions, and how that can be passed on from generation to generation
● The brain of a teen with a high ACE score can be healed with cognitive behavior therapy (one approach to treatment), and schools can integrate trauma-informed and resilience-building practices that result in an increase in students’ scores, test grades and graduation rates.

Knowing all of these facts and knowing that lawmakers have these studies, the lack of call to action to declare a State of Emergency on Childhood Trauma is disturbing.

Childhood trauma is most likely to occur in areas with lower socioeconomic status and higher crime rates. It is no secret that low-income areas have the highest crime rate. Areas with the highest crime rate have the highest instances of childhood trauma. The only way to fix a broken system is to properly fund the solutions to the problem. How do you fund a solution when there is no funding available in the budget? That solution is to declare a State of Emergency.

Governors in the United States have the ability to declare an official state of emergency in the face of events such as natural disasters or disease outbreaks. According to the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, these state responses to an official emergency may include grants, conducting and supporting investigations into the cause, treatment, prevention of disease, and temporary reassignment of state and local personnel.

Because of the loss of life and strain on local resources caused by the opioid crisis, many people in Ohio advocated for the opioid issue to be declared as a state of emergency. Their collective voices were heard, and it was declared on a state and federal level. Billions of funds were allocated towards the dismantling of a crisis rooted in trauma.

Drug use by victims of childhood trauma is a common way of self-medicating. Why not fund a solution to help eliminate the root cause of many opioid addictions? Why are we not funding the solutions to reduce and address untreated childhood trauma?

The majority of children with the highest instances of childhood trauma are Black and Brown. Do our lawmakers fail to see the benefit of providing a solution to a demographic that they cannot relate with? Do our lawmakers not want to help poor families? Children that have untreated childhood trauma are more likely to end up in prison. Are we funding prisons the big business in Ohio rather than allocating the funds to resources that can provide a solution to reduce the likelihood of childhood trauma? Is this a systematic issue that reaps rewards for our trauma?

I am a survivor of childhood trauma. As I think back to my own childhood, I see that the system was broken even when I was a child and now as an adult living with the biological impact has been painful and depressing. The long term effects decreases your quality of life and strengthens your survival mode, trying to figure out how to live with the chronic pain due to fibromyalgia. There’s solutions to fight the world’s biggest epidemic, but when the trauma of Black and Brown babies fuel the economy will those solutions ever see the light of day? We’ll see.

Ron, I believe that we will see this happen. When I was thinking of a song to attach to your post, I found myself going to Sam Cooke, Pioneer and Prophet in the 1950s-60s who knew “A Change is Gonna Come”.

I think Sam speaks to Ron and to all of us who want to not just BE the change, but SEE the change on a large scale.

At TTN, we thank Ronald Hummons for his grand service to the community.  He has put in countless personal hours to draw attention to himself, his story, and this issue, even standing for 24 hours at the State Capitol building in Columbus, OH, with the sign he made (pictured above) and wore in the cold wintertime of 2018.  In 2019, things started to move, and I was invited to witness and be a part of some testimony that primarily Ron, but also others (including TRCC certified and TTN Individual Professional member, LaShanda Sugg),  gave at the State Capitol with the support of two Black Congressmen, who heard and understood Ron’s call. These two gentlemen spent a significant amount of time in meetings with people at the State, (including the very first OHMHAS Trauma-Informed Care Coordinator, Kim Kehl, who recently retired after giving 7 years of service to the cause) and at the local Greater Cincinnati area level, learning more to prepare for the Resolution. I was honored to have been invited into the discussion as they prepared for the late February 2020 introduction of the Resolution.

Unfortunately, much like most new initiatives at the time, momentum was halted due to the COVID pandemic.  Ron has not given up, he is working hard to bring this to the foreforont of awareness again amd to garner more support. In fact, he and I could use your help in spreading the word, spreading this blog, and telling your local congressman or woman to get on board with the proposed Resolution, which would funnel attention and the proper funds to this initiative to create and implement the change that is so sorely needed.  As I said back in February 2020 at my unplanned, but much appreciated, turn behind the pulpit, “we’ve built an initiaive through the Tristate Trauma Network. Folks have been trained, have made  personal and agency shifts to be more trauma-informed and responsive, and the time is ripe/right for this. There will be an army ready to march behind Mr. Hummons and the State of Ohio.” (I have the whole clip with all the speakers if anyone is interested in that, it is quite powerful and I was moved to speak after listening to Ron and LaShanda and some others; thus, as soon as the invitation was made to speak, I went for it. Perhaps when the invtation is made to you, you’ll “go for it” too.  Trust me, it’s coming….:)   

Cue “Florence + The Machine live in concert singing “The Dog Days are Over”

I think Ron needs a “Ron +The Machine” effort here to help push this issue back to the front. PLEASE SHARE THIS TO YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS, TEXT, EMAIL, ETC; LET”S GET THIS BACK ON THE STATE OF OHIO’s AGENDA!  An after that, I’ll gather some folks to take it to KY and IN. That is my promise to you.

May your day be sprinkled with HOPE,

Melissa Adamchik, Executive Director, Tristate Trauma Network (TTN)

Thanks & Giving in a Persisting Pandemic Year 11/24/21

Last month, at our conference, a very courageous woman named Dr. Rama Kasturi, described her PTSD and the ensuing symptoms that led others to believe she had depression. She very eloquently described the “depression” part as wanting to be in the dark, nesting, safe and secure in her mother’s womb.  It was the only way she felt safe. The protective, warm, nourishing enclosed environment of the womb could only be recreated in her dark basement with lots of heavy blankets enveloping her scared and “frozen” body.  The type of frozen body that comes from shutting down completely when things are too overwhelming to bear, similar to an animal that “plays dead” to keep the predator from attacking it further and actually killing it.  Wow, what an analogy that makes so much sense and perfectly describes all the symptoms of depression!  So what does this have to do with Thanksgiving, you ask? Quite a bit actually, with thanksgiving and with the holiday season in general.  If you’ve lost a loved one near the holiday season, you know what that feels like.  If you’ve lost a loved one any time during the year and they are not present for the first time at the Thanksgiving table, you know what that feels like.  It is heart-wrenchingly difficult, if one allows oneself to actually feel the feelings that come up.

So here we have the winter holidays starting and not everyone enjoys them, go figure! They dread “Uncle Hal’s drunkeness” and “Grandma Sally’s drama” and their own mother’s strict adherence to a schedule with emotional breakdowns when something doesn’t go “right.” Sound familiar at all?  What if these relatives’ behaviors that we don’t particularly care for are coming from a real place of fear and sadness that they can’t bring themselves to talk about? What if they don’t feel like saying thanks for something when everyone goes around the table and shares what they’re thankful for, because all they can feel is emptiness from loss or past tragedy?  What if they feel they have nothing left to “give” that day or that week or that whole season?  How do we deal with that? What do we do as the person’s social support system (friend, loved one, acquaintance, colleague)?

Something very simple actually: See them, hear them, validate their feelings and give them permission to feel them, permission to not put on that fake front. Let them know they’re not alone; let them know that when they don’t feel strong enough to stand, they can reach out their hand; and when they’re broken and on the ground, they will be found. By you.

“You Will Be Found” Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack.


Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving, sprinkled with HOPE and compassion,

Melissa Adamchik

Survivor Message to Other Survivors on the Day of TTN’s 7th Annual Fall Conference 10/26/21

“My trauma starts in the generations before mine. I come from a long line of parents abusing their children. Every generation gets better than the last, but none of them were “good.” Because of my family’s past, I often overlooked my own trauma because my life was better than my parents, their parents, and their parents’ parents and so on.

I also am a survivor of child sexual abuse, and surviving that tainted my view on trauma. I thought only the big things were traumatic. I ignored the little things, well, what I defined as little, and by doing so, I hindered my own healing. I thought it was normal to have parents that told you they didn’t love you anymore, because that is what happened in previous generations. 

As a result of comparing my trauma to others, and invalidating the little things, I hurt myself and prevented true healing from happening. I don’t know anyone else’s journey, but I do know, it’s common for survivors to downplay their trauma, and to try to be strong. It’s how many of us have learned to survive. 

I want to encourage others to know that once the healing process begins, to acknowledge the little and the big things; both of them are valid and both of them require healing. It’s not weakness to admit to being hurt, it’s the opposite, it takes strength to admit you have struggles and need help. 

From one survivor to another, know that you’re not alone, healing isn’t linear, and it can’t happen when we’re not willing to be honest and acknowledge the past. Your bravery in surviving will also be the same bravery that will lead you to healing. Be brave, be strong, and know you’re not alone and you can do this.” 

-Anonymous Trauma Survivor

“Brave” song with lyrics

Wishing you a day sprinkled with hope,

Melissa Adamchik, Executive Director, Tristate Trauma Network