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Home » Treating The Core Problem of Childhood Trauma: Liz Mullinar (Transcript)

Treating The Core Problem of Childhood Trauma: Liz Mullinar (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Liz Mullinar’s talk titled “Treating The Core Problem of Childhood Trauma” at TEDxNewy 2011 conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


Understanding Drug Prevention and Parental Concerns

Can anyone explain to me why we spend millions and millions of dollars on educating about drug prevention, don’t take drugs because they’re bad for you? And allowing parents to worry themselves sick about will my child get into drugs because they mix in a bad company. They don’t have to worry at all. People are addicted to drugs, because of their pain.

So they are not going to do it because they’re in bad company. It’s just because they have suffered some trauma, and it’s not an easy thing to solve and heal from. Let’s take an issue that the last two speakers have both talked about: mental illness. Across a research, academic search over the whole of research into this area in 2005: 69.9% of psychiatric inpatients, with serious psychotic disorders, you probably guessed, yes all of them had suffered from childhood trauma.

The Link Between Mental Illness and Childhood Trauma

Bipolar disorder was mentioned. 82 to 86% of people with bipolar disorder, have suffered from some form of childhood trauma. Border personality disorder: 90% have suffered. Then let’s talk about the one that we have been million, 79 million dollars last year spent on raising awareness of: depression.

How many people who suffer from depression do you think have suffered from childhood trauma or abuse? 80%, research tells us. And how many of you here have heard one word about what’s happened in your childhood, and might help you to heal from your depression or anxiety. So what we are doing, raising awareness, so that we can feed the pharmaceutical companies!

So that people can take more medication! Because after all in Australia, we take more anti-depressants than any other country in the world. I work with survivors of childhood trauma, and I know from my independent research, that four years after just a five-day program, there is a highly statistically significant — can never say that word, highly statistically significant reduction in depression.

Six months after a five-day program, a 45% reduction, in measured serious mental illness. So what’s the silence? Why don’t we talk about this? Why we not allowed to acknowledge childhood trauma? Why we not encouraged to heal from childhood trauma?

Neuroplasticity and Healing

What we know, because of neuro-plasticity, that this is possible. Let me discover one other area of deep human sadness. An area that we all care passionately about, and when it hits us, it really, really hurts. And I’m talking about suicide. How agonizing it is.

The young women I work with at Heal For Life; I have one common complaint when they go to hospital having tried to kill themselves: nobody ever asks why? And if they did they will get the same answer from all those young people. Because of my internal pain from my childhood. Because I think I am worthless, I worth nothing. Because no one cares about the fact that I’ve been abused.

And if I look at them, Esperance which in the Central Coast runs a wonderful suicide prevention service. Tony Humphrey, wrote to me and said, “Around 90% of all the women, who have attempted suicide who I have worked with, have ever suffered from sexual abuse or child abuse of some type. And a slightly lower percentage for the men.” So have any of you, ever seen anything about suicide prevention, which is talked about what happened in your childhood?

Has there been a campaign which has said, “Ask a friend when they’re down. What happened in your childhood? Talk to me about your childhood. Because that is very, very likely, to have an impact on your current mental well-being.

Understanding Childhood Trauma

So maybe for a moment some of you maybe think “What she keeps talking about childhood trauma and abuse? What actually is it? Childhood trauma covers a huge spectrum. It covers abandonment, death of the parents, alcoholic parents, childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse. It covers of course natural disasters.

What happens when a trauma occurs? A trauma is more emotion than the brain can deal with. Trauma, at the time it is happening, the person, in an age-appropriate way thinks that their life is threatened. And the brain reacts to this trauma and develops differently, which is why childhood trauma has a much bigger impact on behavior later and the whole way the brain operates later in life. Trauma cannot be remembered. Let me give you an example of this, and that’s because the conscious brain shuts down during trauma.

You may remember or you may not. Princess Diana’s bodyguard, after they were try to find out what actually happened in the accident, they hypnotized, the French police hypnotized the man so that he could remember. So that part of his brain could be unlocked. So that he could say what actually happened at that moment of impact.

Breaking the Silence on Childhood Trauma

So I suppose my great wishes that this silence could be broken. And I have hope that this silence can be broken. Because 40 years ago, there was the big C, there was cancer. No one talked about cancer, we didn’t mention it, it was just, “They have got the big C!”

But now wonderfully everyone talks about cancer. We know people who have suffered from cancer. We talk to them, we encourage them, we love them, and they tell us immediately when they have cancer. Can you imagine how it would be, if in my lifetime — this is my longing, that people talk about childhood trauma.

That is Ok to say, “I had a terrible childhood. All these things happened.” And the other person listening says, “Let me support you. Let me help you in your healing. Let me help you work through what is happened for the development of your brain, because you suffered from childhood trauma.”

Wouldn’t that be a better world for all of us? Because what is creating this silence? Is the embarrassment? Is it shame? Are we shamed by the stigma? Because we are not allowed to know when there is a rape victim, the name of the rape victim. As if in some way that rape was their fault! Why is it that all the concentration is on stranger danger, and church abuse? When that’s about 1% of all abuse!

Abuse happens in the home and it happens to families. But every single one of you here, can help change that. If each one of you help me in my big idea. If each one of you who’s actually suffered from childhood trauma says, “I have no reason to be ashamed of it. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault for my childhood was not perfect. And I deserve love and support.”

Encouraging Healing and Understanding

If those of you when you meet, someone who’s addicted from gambling, alcohol, drugs, if you say them, “Hey, has anyone ever discussed with you what happened in your childhood? Do you think you might like to heal from your childhood?” If only with any moment the mental illness you could say them not just — which is a wonderful campaign, but, “Are you Ok?” but, “Hey, do you want to talk about what happened in your childhood? Because I understand an awful lot of people with mental illness have suffered from some form of childhood trauma. Talk to me about it.

Every single one of you could do that. Every single one of you can help me achieve my big idea. Every single one of you can get involved with the Heal For Life foundation, and help us to make this world a happy place. I leave you with one final thought.

I wonder what it would have happened to this world, if someone had healed Adolf Hitler, from his much acknowledged child abuse. Thank you.

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