by a school principal. Virginia saysjournalling and genograms (familytrees with health information)were the therapies that helped herthe most. Health practitioners usegenograms to assess risk factors,and Virginia, now a life skills coachwho in fact coached Anderson,uses genograms extensively in herpractice.
Of journalling, she says, “The pen
is mightier than the analyst; you’ll
discover things in your writing that
you won’t discover any other way.”
Her sister Rusti found counselling
very beneficial. At the age of 22,
just after the birth of her son, and
while in a verbally and emotionally
abusive relationship with her son’s
father, Rusti sought counselling at the
Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton
(SACE). “SACE tells you secrets are
the most dangerous things,” she
says. Now in her early 50s, Rusti has
no difficulty talking openly about
her experiences. She understands
how the sexual abuse affected her
ability to maintain healthy long-term
relationships. And she understands
the anger she harboured towards
her mother—the person she felt
should have protected her. “There
are victims and there are survivors.
I would classify myself as a survivor
now,” she says with a smile.
Prevention and early intervention
Healing can and does happen, evenin adulthood. But, by focusing onprevention and early intervention,people such as Anderson and theLehay sisters wouldn’t have to spendyears healing from what shouldn’thave happened at all. Prevention andearly intervention avoid more healthcare costs later.
Prevention and intervention arethe focus of the Collaborative MentalHealth Care (CMHC) team in theCalgary Zone of Alberta HealthServices. The team connects parentswho are struggling with mentalhealth issues with support services,and it works with others close to afamily—grandparents, childcareworkers, pre-school teachers—tohelp them protect and support at-riskchildren.
“The best opportunity we haveto make a difference and promotegood mental and physical healthoutcomes is at the time of earlybrain development— by interveningwhen children are young,” programmanager Dianne Cully says.
Childhood and adolescence already
come with their share of ups and
downs. Throw ACEs into the mix,
and the downs can soon outweigh
the ups, making levelness impossible
for these children and undermining
their ability to function. But help
is available, prevention and early
intervention programs are making a
difference, giving children a stable
base from which to heal.
Insight on ACEs
children’s brains form 700 new
neural connections per second. If
children face adverse childhood
experiences (ACEs) during this
time, crucial neural connections
can be interrupted or shut down,
weakening brain architecture
Child at Harvard University says the
more adversity children experience,
especially in the first three years of
life, the more likely they are to have
delays in cognitive, language or
with ACEs, talk to your health-care
professional or call Health Link
— Yasmin Jaswal