In an effort to engage the community in a conversation around Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and its affects on children living in impoverished circumstances, the film “Wounded Places: Confronting Childhood PTSD in America’s Shell-Shocked Cities” was recently screened at Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, sharing stories of survivors of trauma.
The film is part of the forthcoming documentary series, “The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation.” The documentary poses a question to children who have been shattered by violence and adversity: “What happened to you?” not “What’s wrong with you?”
The April 29 screening was presented by UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, First 5 Alameda County, Alameda County Public Health Department and Youth Uprising.
The film conveyed that PTSD, a commonly used term with soldiers of war, is now something that far too many inner-city children experience.
One survivor spoke of witnessing her brother being shot in the head beside her and recalled the warmth of the blood on her hand as she tried to stop the gushing wound. Unbelievably, her trauma continued when she herself was shot and endured five surgeries to reconstruct her face.
Youth experience nightmares, flashbacks, hyper vigilance, sudden rages, depression, mood swings and night sweats, the film revealed. It also demonstrated that exposure to trauma leads to a change in brain architecture, development, language, the ability to focus and organize thoughts.
Doctors further explained that war usually ends, but depressed communities and victims without adequate opportunities for equity are left with “Constant” Traumatic Stress Disorder (CTSD).
Olis Simmons, president of Youth Uprising in East Oakland who is interviewed in the film, discusses how entire communities across America are disconnected generationally from labor markets with a lack of jobs, unemployment or underemployment.
“With decades of divestment and genocide, we need our stories told,” said Sikander Iqbal, Youth Uprising Chief of Staff, at a panel discussion following the screening.
Children’s Hospital President and CEO Bert Lubin said, “The health care system is ‘upside down’ and focused on illness – health is prevention and wellness, health is a job, health is having enough money to live on each month, health is access to food, health is appropriate housing.”
“Our mission is to make Children’s Hospital number one and Oakland a model for the rest of the nation for health care,” Lubin said.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf attended and commended guest speakers and film participants, which included Caheri Gutiérrez, Javier Arango and Kenny Ray Johnson, who suffers from PTSD. While Gutiérrez and Arango serve as trauma prevention counselors, Johnson – who was shot two years ago and left wheelchair-bound – proudly stood before the audience.
“I appreciate my parents and the support of the community, now I am able to stand,” Johnson said proudly.
Mayor Schaaf said, “You are my inspiration for continuing to lead, on the political level, this healing movement in Oakland.”
For more information about the documentary and national campaign, visit www.raisingofamerica.org.