From Harvey Weinstein and #MeToo to a soldier returning from active duty with PTSD, trauma is no longer a secret.
To learn how to deal with personal, family or community trauma, the National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding will present “Understanding Trauma: Finding Help and Comfort” from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, at Calvary Church, 1051 Landis Valley Road. Admission is free. Registration is not required.
Guest speakers will be Freeman M. Chakara, head neuropsychologist at Providence Behavioral Health Services, 600H Eden Road, and a psychology professor at Lancaster Bible College; and Dannel V. Wissler, a licensed professional counselor at Providence.
“I’m hearing it’s a relevant topic,” said Gwen Didden, executive director of Faith Friendship Ministries, a state licensed personal care boarding home in Mountville affiliated with many Christian denominations.
A freewill offering will benefit Faith Friendship. The residence, with 74 beds, ministers to people regardless of ability to pay.
“Ninety-five percent (of people experiencing trauma) have mental health issues,” Didden said. “Of the 5,500 boarding-home beds in Lancaster County, only 307 are for very low income people. We have 74 of them.”
October is Mental Health Month, and this October will mark the 11th annual National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding at Calvary.
Cathi Myers, of Manheim, a member of Calvary and a registered nurse at a local psychiatric hospital, began the event and chairs it annually. Since 2002, she has led a monthly support group, “Minds Renewed,” at Calvary from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on the first Monday of the month from September to May.
“This event grew out of that,” she said.
Attendees at the prayer event will learn to define trauma and three diagnoses associated with it, to describe risk factors for developing PTSD, to differentiate effective from nonhelpful interventions and to defend and advocate for the needs of the wounded.
The evening will open with displays and a prayer room, followed by the program at 7 p.m. Last year, 140 people attended. The previous year, 200 attended.
A previous attendee told Myers: “I am a survivor of a suicide attempt, and I received hope and help from your event. Thank you so much.”
Scripture readings will express the theme. Among them is Isaiah 41:10:
“So do not fear, for I am with you; Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
A path to heal
Wissler, of Holtwood, said it is not uncommon to hear people talk about trauma. She described the prayer event as a way of becoming informed.
“As a community, as we educate ourselves, we help beyond our families and uplift the health of our community,” she said. “What we are learning is that just because someone is traumatized doesn’t mean they have to stay traumatized. People can find healing.”
Myers said the purpose of the event is “through education, prayer and scripture to give people hope, help and comfort.”
She is willing to help other churches set up support groups, and Wissler has trained volunteers in mental health at churches.
“I’m looking forward to speaking and teaching on trauma,” Wissler said. “We have a wonderful community, eager to help, especially invested in the community, interested in making Lancaster County a better place.”
And, she said, people are learning to identify trauma.
“Often we have a normal reaction to an abnormal event. As in an assault, normal reactions are sleeplessness and hypervigilance. But when the reactions are long lasting, they interfere with daily life. Then the community is set up for us to get help.”
Didden said while trauma may be a hot topic now, it has always been around, quoting David in Psalm 43:5 as proof:
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? … Put your hope in God.”