This week my 19 year-old daughter came home from Boulder to stay here with the family for a few days, just shortly before the grocery store that she visits to do her weekly shopping became the scene of this week’s horrific, grisly, and senseless mass shooting.
In addition to being a mom, I am a licensed psychotherapist with 19 years of experience and I have a lot of expertise in how we heal the human psyche from trauma. I will tell you that before this week’s events, my kids were already struggling. As therapists, we are seeing adolescents and young adults suffer with mental health in unprecedented and concerning ways. Because of the pandemic they have lost a staggering number of milestones, developmental norms, their freedoms, and their social supports. They have also lost their ability to feel physically safe from the coronavirus. The trauma that we experience in our lives is cumulative. It all goes into the same “bucket”. The more full that bucket becomes, the more difficult it will be for any individual to cope. That is when we see increasing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and of posttraumatic stress. Now, this is the same generation that has already lived through countless, horrific mass shootings. This is the generation that has active shooter drills at school since kindergarten. This is the generation that has been forced into lockdown by the pandemic for 13 months. The trauma buckets of our young people are officially full and overflowing. They do not have the capacity to deal with more. As their parents, WE do not have the capacity to deal with anymore either. If your teen is showing signs of their trauma bucket overflowing, please consider seeking out the professional help of a therapist.
When we think about the current anxiety that exists as a constant undercurrent in today’s young people, it is helpful to imagine Maslow’s hierarchy. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a paradigm in psychology. It clarifies which needs are most fundamental to healthy human psychology. It tells us that having meaningful relationships and fulfilling lives are wonderful higher-order privileges that are worthy of pursuing. However none of those things matter if you do not first have the most fundamental human need of all met. Physical safety. So it does not matter if my 19 year old finds a college major that she enjoys. It does not matter if my 15 year old is enjoying her extra-curricular sports. So long as they live in a world where they are not safe in their schools and communities, then we cannot expect them to fully thrive and blossom as young adults. Healing from trauma always has to start with restoring the child’s physical safety. Please join me in making a commitment to restoring safety in our country, so that our kids may lead the full lives they deserve.
We are here for you as individual, couple, and family therapists! We offer individual counseling, couples counseling, and family counseling. If you would like more information about Flourish’s counseling services, reach out to us at 303-455-3767 x. 5 or fill out our contact form today.