By Dulari Patel, BCH intern from Texas A&M University

In the third presentation of our five-part series on mental health issues in Boulder County, Dr. Janine D’Anniballe, director of trauma services for Mental Health Partners, explained the key differences between normal stress and traumatic stress, the impact of traumatic stress, and strategies and approaches to help heal after trauma.

An estimated 70 percent of all adults have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lives, she said.

Survivors aren't the only ones impacted by the traumatic experience with repercussions extending to family and friends as well. Understanding trauma is an important first step in developing a compassionate and supportive community for survivors.

People experiencing normal levels of stress can use coping skills such as exercise or walking the dog, but traumatic stress is different and can have long-lasting effects requiring additional help.

She said examples of traumatic events include active combat, sexual abuse, school shootings, natural disasters, and even immigrating to a new country.

D’Anniballe explained that in addition to neurobiological changes in the brain, traumatic stress can impact a person’s memory, physical health, behavior, beliefs, and feelings. It can also lead to adaptations such as substance abuse, eating disorders and many forms of violence. D’Anniballe said the underlying problem of these adaptations is a disassociated autonomic nervous system.

Strategies to regulate the nervous system after trauma include meditation, yoga, mindfulness practices and connecting with safe people and animals -- proven approaches to help rewire the brain and facilitate the healing process.

D’Anniballe said helping trauma survivors begins with taking their symptoms seriously, avoiding blame, and encouraging positive coping skills. She said the survivor and the person trying to help should reach out for mental health support.

Join us for our next free presentation in our mental health series, “Addiction is a Brain Disease: Treatment Works and Recovery Happens” on Monday, April 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the Boulder Jewish Community Center (6007 Oreg Ave).

The free community health lecture series on mental health is a partnership between BCH, Mental Health Partners and the Boulder & Boulder Valley Rotary Clubs.

Click here to view PowerPoint slides from Dr. D’Anniballe’s lecture.

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