The Trauma Lines Blog

Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists

Are You Truly Prepared for A Disaster?

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Isn’t it amazing how some things in our life, no matter how minute they are in retrospect, can really disrupt our everyday routines? This past winter after a blizzard which dumped about two feet of snow in my town, I was amazed how this snow caused such a disruption, between the problems trying to just get around, to the lack of parking spots, and not to mention all that shoveling.

It hit me that in a short while this snow will melt, the plow trucks will carve out some drivable roadways, and life will return to “normal.”

The point here is it really made me consider how difficult everyday life must be after a true natural disaster like an earthquake, tornado or flood. If my life is this inconvenienced by some snow, imagine the disruption if building were reduced to rubble, there was no running water and some of my fellow residents were injured or even killed.

I wanted to share a blog post from the extremely popular personal finance blog Get Rich Slowly (GRS). Now you may be saying to yourself, “What does personal finance have to do with trauma or disaster preparedness?” GRS does a fantastic job at weaving nearly every aspect of your life into its impact on your finances.

So, are you financially prepared for a disaster? Just because you purchased a disaster preparedness kit form the Red Cross doesn’t mean you’re prepared for every scenario. Have you thought about life’s most basic needs to the point of how and where you will go to the bathroom if there’s no running water?

Be sure to read “Emergency Preparedness on a Shoestring.” Here’s a little sample:

Images of devastation emerged after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. We watched water sweep away vehicles and houses; we saw stunned men and weeping women in the ruins. But we also heard about survivors whose homes weren’t flattened or inundated, people who subsisted on stockpiled food and water while waiting for help. Living on the “Ring of Fire” means temblors and tidal waves are a fact of life — and so is disaster preparedness.

We need to be prepared, too. The Department of Homeland Security’s Ready America program says we should be able to sustain ourselves for at least three days after an emergency, whether that’s a hundred-year storm or a civil insurrection.
How ready are you?

Right now, before anything bad happens, is the time to build your emergency kit — and you can do it on a budget. In fact, you probably already have some (or a lot) of what you need.

Written by traumalines

April 11, 2011 at 8:21 pm

ATSS: Looking Back on 2010

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As we make our way through spring, ATSS is not only looking ahead to 2011 and beyond, we wanted to take a few moments to remind our members of what we accomplished last year.

Here’s a list of some of the more significant accomplishments made by the Board and the organization in 2010:

  • Revised membership application form and description.
  • Reviewed and adjusted team membership rates.
  • Reviewed certification fees – recommended the following changes effective February 2011: Add student and senior rate and offered longer term.
  • Successfully developed and offered International Trauma Conference and generated a modest profit.
  • Started review of website with objective to rebuild the entire site. Started costing process.
  • Made significant changes to existing website.
  • Started review of membership database.
  • Started review of certification database.
  • Reviewed and endorsed six trainings.
  • Updated board portion of website. Added board member bios and email addresses.
  • Conducted review and started reprint of existing bylaw manual.
  • Reviewed and amended sponsor recognition around certifications.
  • Updated ATSS logo.
  • Added two additional board members and filled vacant Secretary (Linda Hood) and Treasurer (Christine Dernederlanden) positions.
  • Identified dormant committees and added one new one (Fundraising and Promotion).
  • Developed ATSS blog.
  • Sent ten blast emails.
  • Published four (January, March, May and July) editions of Trauma Lines.
  • Renewed management agreement with MHANJ.
  • Revised ATSS letterhead.
  • Updated online membership application form.
  • Updated online certification application form.
  • Added an additional ATSS regional meeting in NJ/NY.
  • Repatriated the Carol Hacker Award lantern.
  • Started planning for the strategic planning meeting in 2011.
  • Started to develop policy to deal with former members misusing certifications and membership references on resumes, websites, letterhead and promotional materials.
  • Our contracted Office Administrator, Lauren DePoto, took advantage of a career opportunity and moved on with our thanks and gratitude for a job well done. We welcomed Annie James as our new Office Administrator.
  • Developed member resource directory application form.
  • Established a working relationship with PTSD Anonymous, Tacoma, Washington.
  • Updated sponsor contact information while recruiting new sponsors.
  • ATSS Facebook page and Twitter Account
  • Added MA State Disaster Behavioral Health Network to our list of collaborators.

Written by traumalines

March 30, 2011 at 7:42 pm

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What If We Could Turn Off Our Anxiety

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You don’t have to be dealing with something as serious as post-traumatic stress disorder to be riled by feelings of anxiety. For many, non-threatening events such as going to a job interview, meeting your girlfriend’s parents for the first time or standing in a crowded elevator, can bring on feelings of anxiety.

Yet researchers from Stanford University hope to deal with the more-serious cases after possibly discovering a way to shut off your brain’s impulses of anxiety. But like most of the ground-breaking studies we’ve discussed in this blog, the findings are still in the preliminary stages:

Researchers found a certain brain circuit that when stimulated in mice proved to inhibit their anxiety — the mice were emboldened to freely explore open areas they typically shunned out of fear of predator attacks.

Stanford’s Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, discusses our current grasp on axiety and why it’s so important that we better understand how we can possibly prevent it:

“Anxiety is a poorly understood but common psychiatric disease,” said Deisseroth, who is also a practicing psychiatrist. More than one in four people, in the course of their lives, experience bouts of anxiety symptoms sufficiently enduring and intense to be classified as a full-blown psychiatric disorder. In addition, anxiety is a significant contributing factor in other major psychiatric disorders from depression to alcohol dependence, Deisseroth said.

What’s wrong with how we currently treat anxiety?

Most current anti-anxiety medications work by suppressing activity in the brain circuitry that generates anxiety or increases anxiety levels. Many of these drugs are not very effective, and those that are have significant side effects such as addiction or respiratory suppression, Deisseroth said. “The discovery of a novel circuit whose action is to reduce anxiety, rather than increase it, could point to an entire strategy of anti-anxiety treatment,” he added.

Be sure to continue reading this article from the Stanford School of Medicine to learn more about the research going into fighting anxiety.

Written by traumalines

March 23, 2011 at 7:03 pm

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A Touching, Must-See Video of Returning Vets

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When I first heard about this video, it came to me in an email titled “Let’s See How Tough You Are…..”

I must confess, I thought I knew what I was in for. The video starts out with familiar scenes of soldiers returning home to their families. But this video wasn’t about a planned arrival on the tarmac at an U.S. Air Force base.

This video is of soldiers surprising their loved ones with an unexpected arrival at places the family members, most of them young children, might never expect — the classroom, the school gym, a little league ballpark, their bedrooms and kitchens.

Whether you consider yourself tough or not, this video offers you a glimpse of just how much our service members are missed and just how bad their loved ones want to see them come home safe. This video takes about 10 seconds for you to realize that, no matter who you are, it’s OK not to act “tough.”

Written by traumalines

March 21, 2011 at 9:10 pm

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Can Critical Incident Stress Debriefing Increase Chances of PTSD?

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One experts seems to think so.

TIME’s Maia Szalavitz interviewed Emory University psychology professor Scott Lilienfeld who is of the opinion that critical incident stress debriefing can actually increase someone’s chances of post-traumatic stress.

As we noted yesterday, the psychological impact of the devastation in Japan is expected to be massive. But is the technique commonly used by trauma responders doing more harm than good?

Here’s an excerpt from the TIME interview with the professor:

So, how could the counseling of survivors immediately after the tsunami and earthquake possibly backfire?

No one knows for sure why it’s not a good idea, but given what the research shows, [some kinds of debriefing can be harmful]. It usually involves putting people in groups very shortly after the traumatic event and strongly encouraging them to “Get their feelings out” and “Talk about it” and so on. In classic debriefing, they almost prescribe symptoms, saying things like “Don’t be surprised if you start feeling X, Y or Z” or “There’s a good chance you’ll have nightmares or flashbacks.” There’s some speculation that that [in itself] might bring some of the symptoms on, so I’m not sure that’s a great idea.

What does the research find?

The research shows that [this type of debriefing is] probably at best ineffective and may actually be harmful in some cases. [It’s not clear why]. Some of what happens is that you have to respect individual coping mechanisms. Some people are ready to talk and some prefer not to talk. One problem with classic debriefing is that it often strongly encourages or urges people to talk about emotional memories that they may not really want to talk about. It’s best to kind of leave it alone.

[Another] thing we know is that if you want to deal with anxiety, you have to allow anxiety to peak first and then pass, and give people enough opportunity to fully process it. [These techniques] may bring up some anxiety and increase it, maybe even bring up new anxieties and not really resolve them or make them worse.

But one recent paper claimed that the evidence of harm [from debriefing] was overstated, so there is still some controversy over whether it’s useless or actively harmful — but even these authors admit that when used sloppily, [debriefing] probably is harmful.

I’ve heard that another problem arises from the fact that the counselors are strangers. They come into a situation from outside and are not known to the survivors.

It could be that there would be problems with strangers, but I think that a bigger concern is that [interventions] have to respect people’s culture. There are certainly cultural similarities between the U.S. and Japan but there are also other cultural differences that have to be respected.

Japan tends to be, in a broad generalization, somewhat more of a collectivist culture. There’s often more respect for community and group harmony, group cohesion. There’s a danger in people coming in who are not sufficiently culturally sensitive to those kinds of issues. They need to be very careful that interventions they use are culturally attuned.

Click here to continue reading the TIME interview.

Written by traumalines

March 15, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Japan: “Psychological impact is just beginning”

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By now we’ve all seen the devastation caused by the simultaneous natural disasters in Japan recently. The physical toll, destruction of property was all abundantly clear. But what also follows these physically-destructive storms is the strong psychological toll that can quickly set in:

The stress from losing homes, loved ones, and livelihoods in the initial disaster is being compounded by worries over the nuclear power plants. Being ripped away from the world you knew can be devastating.

Dr. Steven Berkowitz, of the Penn Center for Youth & Family trauma Response, says in most disasters, a third of the victims become heroes, and a third cope reasonably well.

However, about a third need serious psychological help.

Who is most as risk?

“Over the long term, it is middle-aged women who seem to fare the worst,” says Dr. Berkowitz of a study looking at generational differences in responses to trauma.

“They are taking care of their parents, as well as their families and kids, often their husbands. So, over time, they become stressed and overwhelmed by the myriad responsibilities they have.”

The road is long

Just as we’ve seen in countless past disasters, the road to recovery will be long:

One complication of large-scale disasters like this, he says, is that they go on & on for a long time.

The most-recent example of this was the massive earthquake in Haiti over a year ago. People remain displaced, jobs remain lost, grieving continues and the stresses and memories remain. The event is still so fresh that most of the long-term effects are not quite known. Certainly more to come…

Written by traumalines

March 14, 2011 at 9:09 pm

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Want to Host ATSS’ Next Conference?

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After a very successful conference in Toronto in 2010, ATSS is now planning for our next conference that will occur in the fall of 2012. Click here to view photos from the 2010 ATSS Conference.

To be successful, we will need the assistance of a local host organization or group.

ATSS International Trauma Conference 2012 wants YOU if:

  • your group is dedicated, hardworking but fun-loving
  • you are located in an area near a major airport
  • you have a hotel in your area with reasonable rates, with breakout room space and large enough to host an international conference
  • you have volunteers available to help with onsite planning
  • you want to showcase your area to delegates from across the United States and Canada
  • you are willing to enjoy yourselves and have some laughs
  • you enjoy working as a team

Please submit your proposal via email to

If your group fits these criteria, ATSS wants to hear from you!!!

Interested in finding out some more about what our 2010 conference in Toronto was like? Check out these blog posts:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

Written by traumalines

March 9, 2011 at 8:59 pm

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