Post Trauma Wellness DVD

Post-Trauma Wellness

This recorded lecture presents timely and cutting edge insights into the best ways to improve behavioral healthcare.

A project of the Center for Post-Trauma Wellness in California, this DVD features John Records, JD, and Heather Larkin, PhD.  They begin by explaining how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente’s “Adverse Childhood Experiences Study” was able to document the strong correlation between childhood experiences of abuse, neglect and family dysfunction and later health problems.

The evidence is overwhelming that the more a person under 18 years old is exposed to one or more “adverse childhood experiences” the more likely there will be long term consequences that carry over into their adult lives.   “Adverse childhood experiences” include emotional, physical or sexual abuse, emotional or physical neglect or domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness, divorce or incarceration of a family member.

Consequences of this exposure may include chronic diseases such as those of the heart, liver and lungs, mental health issues, obesity, substance abuse and domestic violence among others.  While this may seem discouraging, the presenters do not believe that the past is destiny.  Behavioral healthcare providers can “help people see that their story is essentially heroic”. One can learn to view oneself as a survivor capable of recovery and change.  The “Integral Therapy” they recommend takes a holistic approach to treating the mind and body of a person as a member of a larger community and social network.

Their presentation ends with a quote from Joan Borysenko’s, Fire in the Soul:

 “Some of the healthiest people I know are those who have had to heal from the most challenging situations, and in the process, have gained insight and wisdom far beyond what a “comfortable” life would ordinarily provoke.”

More information and resources are available at the Center for Post-Trauma Wellness’ Website:

The New Black

The New Black is an engaging and timely documentary by Yoruba Richen “that tells the story of how the African-American community is grappling with the gay rights issue in light of the recent gay marriage movement and the fight over civil rights.”

The film demonstrates that while stigma against homosexuality certainly exists in some segments of the African American community, sentiments are certainly not unanimous. Richen first became interested in the issue when learning about the fight over Proposition 8 in California. In this legal case, a ballot initiative was used to reverse the right of same sex couples to wed in the state. This right was eventually restored by the Supreme Court on June 26, 2013.

The original success of the ballot initiative revealed a split between many African-Americans and the progressive contingent who support same sex marriage. In 2012 a referendum called “Question 6” was placed on the general election ballot in Maryland. It was a similar attempt to reverse a bill that legalized same-sex marriage (called the “Civil Marriage Protection Act”). However, the results in Maryland were different this time, and the Act was upheld by a 52.4% majority of voters.

Richens decided to explore the issues raised by focusing on activists from both sides in the weeks before the election. With unbiased compassion she gives voice to many in the community - not only those who are unequivocally for or against same-sex marriage, but those who are struggling to reconcile their beliefs. There are a diverse range of opinions, and many people hold evolving views on the subject. This reviewer saw the film at the AFI Docs festival, where it received a standing ovation and generated lively discussion afterwards. It also won the audience award for best feature. The New Black should prove a useful tool for those who want to expand the conversation about stigma and race.

Escape Fire:  The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare

This compelling 90-minute documentary was directed by Susan Frömke and Matthew Heineman.  It endeavors to tackle the complex subject of what is wrong with the healthcare system in America but how it should be fixed.  While it is not the first documentary with such ambitions (attempted before most notably by Michael Moore with Sicko) it makes a worthwhile contribution to the discussion.   

“Escape Fire’s” initially confusing title is explained by the story of a team of firefighters surrounded by a fire burning too quickly to outrun.  One firefighter manages to save himself by actually starting a fire at his own feet, reasoning that if he burns the fuel around him before the main fire reaches him he will be surrounded by a safety zone.  This “escape fire” allowed him to survive unharmed while the rest of the crew perished.  The film posits that we are in a similar situation – unless we can start to think more innovatively about new solutions we will be engulfed by the flaws in our current system of health care.

This documentary artfully presents statistics to illustrate this point.   The filmmaker’s also have a real skill bringing those statistics to life with human stories.   Particularly affecting are some profiles of soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan addicted to dozens of medications who are successfully treated with alternatives such as meditation.  Experts such as Dean Ornish explain how “75% of healthcare costs go to treating chronic diseases that are largely preventable” and what can be done to change this alarming fact.

At 90 minutes the film is too long to be absorbed in one viewing.   However, its many compelling segments should hopefully help to play a role in reimagining the future of healthcare in the US.

When I Came Home

When I Came Home is an authentic and gritty portrait of an Iraqi war veteran’s struggle to rebuild his life back in the states.  Dan Lohaus’ powerful 2006 documentary is now available for free viewing online at

This film allows Herold Noel to tell his story in his own words.  He left his hometown of Brooklyn New York to join the service because it was a place with very few opportunities for a young person without an education.  However, he returns to face all of the same challenges he tried to leave behind.  In addition he now must also cope with the torment of traumatic memories of his time in Iraq.  His PTSD frequently robs him of his sleep and ability to function normally.

We see him struggle to find shelter and assistant for himself and his children in the face of an extremely bureaucratic and unhelpful system.  This experience transforms him into an activist, speaking out to everybody in government and the media who will listen.  While he is the main character, we also meet several other veterans from both Iraq and Vietnam as well.

It is actually fortunate that there is not too much focus on facts and expert talking heads in this film, as the number of homeless veterans has been reduced considerably since it was made.   Undoubtedly this moving film and the work of Herold Noel and others forced the Veterans Administration to make significant strides in reducing homelessness among its veterans.  However, there is still much work to be done.  The film remains a powerful testament to the difficulties veterans face when trying to rejoin the civilian world.