The number of shocking events over the past year is overwhelming … the Newtown school massacre; the Boston Marathon bombings; devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma.
Although the specifics of each catastrophe varies, media coverage adheres to a similar script involving communal resilience, collective support, and predictions of post-traumatic stress among victims and witnesses – even those thousands of miles away. In recent years, a small branch of positive psychology has been exploring the possibility that adversity can be a source of strength and wisdom. Mark Obbie recently wrote about post-traumatic growth for Pacific Standard magazine.
We spoke with Mac McClelland about the spread of the invisible disorder that somewhere between 100 and 300-thousand veterans brought back from war …trauma. “Secondary traumatic stress” does not have its own entry in the DSM, and is often called compassion fatigue, a more euphemistic title. Sufferers experience PTSD symptoms, but are often faced with even more hurtles than veterans when seeking help. The important difference people see between the victims of PTSD and secondary traumatic stress is that the latter’s trauma was not originally their own. Mac McClelland wrote an article for Mother Jones’ about the phenomenon of secondary traumatic stress and its affect on the families of returned soldiers. She’s also working on a book about PTSD.
In 1999, the Columbine massacre dramatically shifted how American schools approach student discipline. Zero-tolerance policies became the norm. Rates of suspensions have doubled, with minority-students seeing the most dramatic rise.
Studies show that only 5% of those suspended are for weapons or drugs. It’s behavior that gets the vast majority of these kids sent home. But a high school in Walla Walla, WA realized that home is not giving these kids what they need.