News

Today is Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving that affords people all around the world the chance to support a charity or non-profit that’s important to them. While there are so many great organizations to support today, and every day, here’s 25 reasons we would love your support.

  1. We support all people affected by trauma, either first-hand or as support people. Trauma affects everyone.
  2. Canada has the highest rate of PTSD in the world, with over 9 per cent of the population developing PTSD over a lifetime. Keep in mind, that not everyone who suffers trauma will develop PTSD, but this is still a staggering number.
  3. Vicarious trauma from PTSD can be passed from parent to child or from client to trauma worker, which is why we also work with therapists, first-responders, teachers and more.
  4. PTSD affects twice as many women as men.
  5. Sexual assault is more likely to cause PTSD than other traumas. In Canada, 1 in 3 people suffers unwanted sexual contact.
  6. Our mindfulness journal is an easy way to support us and give to yourself in the process; journaling and writing are incredible tools in the healing process.
  7. Our Therapy Grant Program allows trauma survivors to access high-quality trauma therapy with trauma-trained and certified psychologists.
  8. For our Therapy Grant Program, we pay our trauma psychologists their regular rate, in order to ensure the utmost quality treatment for our clients, and support these amazing people in the work that they do.
  9. But demand is huge for our Therapy Grant Program. In fact, we have nearly 20 people on a waiting list who are desperately seeking the help they deserve.
  10. Therapy Grant recipient: “If I were to compare where I am at after eight months of involvement with BFF, I would say that I have really started to step up into being more of who I truly am. I have started to love myself much more than I could have ever imagined before. I know I have value now, and I know that what I have to say matters. I now know that I am worthy, and I am so blessed to be able to share energy and a safe space with other people like me.”
  11. Christine Littman: “The cost of proper trauma therapy can be overwhelming and unattainable, making it easy for a person to delay or avoid seeking treatment altogether. Mental health, when ignored or denied, can lead to many other physical and mental issues. To those of us who are just beginning our journey of healing, knowing where and how to start can be an overwhelming and intimidating process. The guidance and direction that the Breaking Free Foundation provides is crucial in helping a person take the first step. A step that can easily be abandoned if trying to face it alone.” 
  12. Our Monthly Meet-ups are a free place for trauma survivors and their supporters to come and talk about anything related to trauma—mental health, addiction, you name it.
  13. We have requests from people in Ontario, Northwest Territories and Manitoba to expand our Meet-up program, and we are working on getting this done!
  14. We are in the process of getting our charitable status, but in the meantime, we work so hard for every dollar we receive. Right now, donations are crucial to our survival.
  15. You can be part of our “me too” movement and support us at the same time by purchasing our “me too” bracelet, designed by Drops of Gratitude in Calgary.
  16. Our annual Victor Walk is a national initiative to raise awareness about childhood rape, and give a voice to those affected by this epidemic. We hope to turn every victim into a Victor.
  17. 32 per cent of Canadians [have] experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse, exposure to intimate partner violence or a combination of these while they were young.
  18. Do you know someone suffering from addiction? Trauma is at the root of addiction.
  19. Do you know someone suffering from depression, anxiety or mental health conditions? Trauma is at the root of mental health problems.
  20. People who suffer from social, economic or educational disadvantage or racism within a given country are more likely to get PTSD than those who don’t.
  21. Did you know 52 first-responders have committed suicide this year so far in Canada? It’s true. This demographic is particularly vulnerable to the effects of PTSD.
  22. EMDR is an incredibly effective therapy treatment for PTSD, but it is expensive, that’s why our Therapy Grant Program is so important.
  23. Every dollar we receive is helping someone dealing with the effects of trauma. We have one employee, our incredible Executive Director, Shandra Carlson. Because of this, a lot of work we do is facilitated by volunteers, so your dollar is really being put to work at BFF!
  24. Someone you know is suffering from PTSD or the lingering effects of trauma.
  25. You can make a difference in someone’s life.

Trauma is defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience, a definition that describes mass shootings and terrorist attacks perfectly. Violence, especially when it’s targeted towards a specific group, has very widespread effects. The survivors, family and friends of lost ones, and the world watching, will all feel the effects of trauma at this degree—such as we are from the tragic Orlando shooting this past weekend. The LGBT community, and the globe as a whole, is mourning and attempting to cope with the trauma of the largest mass shooting in US history. This past weekend, 103 people were shot in an LGBT nightclub on Orlando, 50 of them losing their lives.

As a result of this heinous act, millions of people around the world are reacting, both online and in their communities, to the deep pain of such an event. Individuals who survive trauma, or are exposed to it in some way can develop PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and it can have a damaging effect both physically and mentally.

The combination of life-threatening traumatic personal experiences, loss of loved ones, disruption of routines and expectations of daily life, and post-violence adversities pose psychological challenges to the recovery of children and families. [National Child Traumatic Stress Network]

Symptoms of PTSD can include:

  • Flashbacks, or reliving the trauma
  • Nightmares
  • Intense fear
  • Avoidance
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
  • Guilt, worry or depression
  • Difficulty remembering the trauma
  • Hyperarousal
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Severe emotional distress

In addition to PTSD, there are other psychological effects this event can have on people:

  • Danger reactions: when violent events like this occur, there is an increased fear in people and the desire to be near loved ones is more imminent. It can be increasingly difficult for people if they are separated from loved ones as well.
  • Grief: there is no “appropriate” way to grieve, everyone does it differently, and there is no wrong way. Grief can be harder to deal with if loss occurs during a traumatic event.
  • Depression: this can occur with prolonged effects of trauma or PTSD.

In addition to meeting people’s basic needs, there are several ways to enhance people’s coping. Physical: Stress can be reduced with proper nutrition, exercise and sleep. Youth and adults may need to be reminded that they should take care of themselves physically to be of help to loved ones, friends, and communities. Emotional: Youth and adults need to be reminded that their emotional reactions are expected, and will decrease over time. However, if their reactions are too extreme or do not diminish over time, there are professionals who can be of help. Social: Communication with, and support from, family members, friends, religious institutions and the community are very helpful in coping after catastrophic violence. People should be encouraged to communicate with others, and to seek and use this support where available. [National Child Traumatic Stress Network]

Listen to your body and your emotions, and in general, if you are having trouble coping with the symptoms from trauma or PTSD, seek professional help. If you are dealing with the trauma of a mass shooting or violent event, immediate mental health resources are available in Alberta via CMHA Calgary. If you want to speak to a trauma-specialized therapist to deal with your PTSD or trauma symptoms, please check out our free Therapy Grant program.Keep in touch with us on Twitter or Facebook to learn more about trauma, the effects of trauma and how to cope with PTSD.

— Written by Amber Craig, BFF Chair 
{Follow on Twitter}

 

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What an appropriate mental picture of our unsaid words and unresolved issues. We may not physically see the “elephant”, but boy is it there!

“When you avoid something, you automatically create a void.”

Life is filled with experiences – good, bad and ugly – every one of us has them. But what about when hurt happens? What about those moments that shut us down, shut us in? It could be as simple as a misunderstood text or email, or as complex as a traumatic experience that hasn’t been shared with anyone. It could be an incident that impacted you, that the other person has no idea took place.

We had an incident in our family that hasn’t been talked about for years. Over Christmas it came up, a complete surprise for me that anyone even wanted to discuss it. It was a true Christmas gift for all of us. I immediately thought about how we invite the elephant in, feed it, watch it grow until it becomes an adult, and then wonder how we’re going to walk it out the door, because it’s not going to escort itself out.

What happens then, when it gets so big it seems impossible to deal with? I think that’s where the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” comes in. “One bite at a time.” It’s generally used in reference to projects that overwhelm us that we need to dissect into segments so we can manage it, but if we applied that principle to all areas that seem larger than life it could potentially make a significant difference in the long run.

So, why do we tend to avoid our mental health? Or the discussions that need to happen – but haven’t? What about those conversations we know will never take place? Where and how does resolution come? We can be so overwhelmed, feeling hopeless and paralyzed by it. Or we may not even consider its importance. So many of us are willing to take care of our physical health but zoning in on our mental health doesn’t always cross our minds.

“If we cared about our mental health like we care about our dental health, we would be okay.” — Howie Mandel

Mental health carries more significance than most other parts of our being (besides oxygen), because without it we lose so much of who we are. Caring for our mental health may be as simple as an extra half hour of sleep at night. That’s one bite out of the elephant. It may mean being courageous and saying something vs keeping it hidden inside. It could be phoning your mom to tell her you love her, or booking an appointment to talk to someone. I don’t know what those bites might look like, but I do know you’re worth the effort. If you take time to invest in your whole health, you and those you love will most definitely reap the rewards.

Bell Let’s Talk Day is January 27th, and you can participate on social media by using #BellLetsTalk. Find out more about Bell Let’s Talk and ending the stigma around mental health, here.

Helping is healing and healing is possible.

— Written by Shandra Carlson, follow on Twitter

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October is Child Abuse Awareness Month in Canada, and now is the time to pay attention to an epidemic in our country—one-third of Canadians have been abused as a child. That number is far too high, and hopefully the increased attention to this problem this month will serve to educate Canadians and hopefully work to lower those numbers.

32% of Canadians [have] experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse, exposure to intimate partner violence or a combination of these while they were young. [National Post, Canadian Medical Association Journal]

The data from the report (quoted above), was released last year, and it’s just a small snapshot of the big problem our country and our children are facing. Not to mention, a majority of those who cited experiencing abuse as a child, would develop mental health problems later on. Child abuse and trauma is something that affects everyone, across all generations.

Each province and territory has its own child protection legislation that defines the circumstances in which a child is in need of protection, and you can find out more about that on the Government of Alberta website. But if you find yourself in a position where child abuse or neglect is being disclosed, here’s how you can respond:

  • Acknowledge: be sure to acknowledge the child’s situation and their feelings. Be a careful and attentive listener, but refrain from interviewing the child. Listening is more important than asking questions at this point.
  • Comfort: ensure the child they are safe and comfort them. No matter what, child abuse is never the child’s fault.
  • Take notes: document what the child says or what it is that you see, then take action by reporting it to the local police authority.

When in doubt, report suspected child abuse.  You do not have to be 100 per cent certain that abuse has occurred. The safety of the child or youth may be at risk. The authorities have the responsibility to determine the facts and evidence, not you. [Canadian Red Cross]

More resources on identifying and responding to child abuse can be found on the Alberta Government website. Take to social media to speak up for kids as well, you can find us on Twitter and Facebook.

— Written by Amber Craig
[Follow me on Twitter]

Interested in sharing your story on our blog? Please send submissions to: contact@breakingfreefoundation.ca