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Don't Let Mental Health or Traumatic Experiences Set You Back.

A conversation with Eugena Lomax, Terrell Borum, Kenneth Woods, & Dr. Raymond Scott about mental health challenges and accessible tips and tools to address them.

Eugena Lomax

Eugena is the founder and therapist of Elevate Counseling & Coaching Services. She is a licensed professional counselor earning her master's degree from Lindenwood University. She has spent the past 17 years helping clients in various settings to improve their choices and learn what factors influence them. She has a strong-spirited outlook and a positive attitude to best serve the clients she works with.

Terrell Borum

Terrell earned his master's degree in social work from The University of Missouri - St. Louis. He is currently employed as a clinical consultant with St. Louis Public Schools where he works to use a trauma-informed lens to support the social and emotional needs of students, staff, and families. He also owns a mental health practice that provides services to support the mental health needs of black teens and adults struggling with anger, sadness, worry, stress, and fear.

Kenneth Woods

Kenneth is a master's level therapist with an emphasis in clinical psychology and minority mental health. He is a licensed clinical social worker and certified high school counselor and educator. He has a private practice geared towards trauma care for adults, children, adolescents, and couples.

Dr. Raymond Scott

Dr. Scott is a clinical psychologist for the California Department of State Hospitals. His responsibilities include supervising the provision of clinical services by unlicensed psychologists using evidence-based practices to treat judicially-committed adult males' mental, emotional, behavioral, and developmental disorders and disabilities. Additionally, he designed and implemented treatment programs, evaluated treatment efficacy, and provided interdisciplinary competency training and evaluations.

How does the judicial system create mental health issues for incarcerated individuals?

When looking at children who are diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) or adults who are diagnosed with Conduct Disorder, we automatically assume they are bad people or people who innately make bad decisions. What we fail to recognize is that often times, people engage in bad behaviors as a trauma response. Rather than sending them to facilities that treat real mental health issues, they are sent to jails and prisons which only worsens the problem.

The school to prison pipeline in terms of trauma

There is a direct relationship between out-of-school suspensions and prisons. Both are basically a way of saying, "I can't deal with you, I can't deal with what's going on with you, get out of here." When this happens over and over, we fail to teach people how to identify their emotions, how to cope, or how to deal with their behaviors and emotions in a different way. We separate them, which reinforces their behavior (trauma responses).

Kids are taught that bad people go to prison. So, what happens when someone in your family goes to prison? That adult continues to hold a lot of importance. Going to prison with the "bad people" changes children's perspectives on their loved ones.

How do we tackle the culture that has been created in these systems that contribute to mental health issues?

The culture does not lend itself to being healthy at all. When you think about the prison environment, it is not normal in any sense. It's a degrading experience because you aren't treated as an individual, you're treated as if you're "bad." Many correctional officers are there with the punishment model in mind. It's rare that correctional officers consider rehabilitation models, for they are focused on making incarcerated individuals pay for their mistakes. If you don't enter the system with a mental disorder, it can be easy to develop one in the prison environment.

Should a "fit-to-serve" model be implemented for correctional officers?

Like prisoners, correctional officers are in the prison environment all day. We have trauma-exposed people working with other traumatized individuals, which is not a healthy mix. 75-80% of people currently in prison will be released, so this is something we truly need to think about a society. What are incarcerated individuals doing in prison, and how are they acting when they come out? Adequate support must be provided for readjustment and reclamation issues, especially for juveniles.

How can we help family members of incarcerated individuals throughout the process?

It all boils down to abandonment. A lot of times when people are arrested, it's a quick, fast change. It is so important to make room for conversations around how the decisions of incarcerated individuals affected their families as well as how they can appropriately support one another. Often times, the issues that led to the incarceration of an individual are not rectified by the time they come out and they have less tools to deal with them than they did in the first place. Talking about each other's feelings is necessary in order to heal and move forward - this must be normalized.

What about the impact of COVID-19? What might it look like in years to come?

The global pandemic has presented a multitude of challenges for everyone, especially our young people. People need connection. When we're isolated, it is easy for our mental health to deteriorate. We are hard-wired to be around others and take care of others. The power of touch is so very important. COVID-19 robs us of the things that sustain us and diminishes our capacity to be present and prosper.

Among young people, there has been a significant increase in anxiety. Anxiety treatment as well as treatment for other disorders has become more depersonalized because most of it does not occur in person, and when it does, both people are wearing masks. This hides emotional expression and ultimately diminishes treatment efficacy.

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