Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and LGBT/Q Youth


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A look at the brain, our health, and how stress can compromise both. Particular emphasis is placed on the stress experienced by gay youth, described as "stress on steroids."

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Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and LGBT/Q Youth Page 2 www.HealingTheBrainBooks.com Topics: Development, LGBTQ Stress, Memory, Depression, Concussions/CTE, Addiction, Domestic Abuse/Traumatic Brain Injury, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Praise for the series: “David Balog takes a subject fraught with difficulty and makes it simple and accessible to everyone. The book goes a long way in helping one understand how and why and in what ways stress affects how we live and cope. Invaluable.”-​ -​Jessica Watson-Crosby, president, National Association of Former Foster Children “...[A] book for educators (or anyone working with youth) that explains the complicated workings of the brain in an easy to understand manner. The author goes on to discuss various types of trauma and how the adolescent brain responds to trauma such as depression, stress, addiction, risk taking, PTSD, etc. LGBT/Q youth may experience….I highly recommend this book!​--​Carol Dopp, M.Ed. “David Balog understands the strain of alienation, so he tackles this subject with compassion and concern. Mr. Balog draws on his knowledge of brain science to give readers insight into what happens to young people under tremendous stress, and he offers practical advice on how to help and cope.”-​ -Gary L. Cottle, author "Provides comfort and learning to the reader. Flows easily from one topic to the next and knits tidbits of information together in a unifying mosaic. Easy to read. Difficult to put down."​ --Michael J. Colucciello, Jr., New York State Dept. of Mental Health researcher, retired


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Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and LGBT/Q Youth Page 3 Ask about the print book, bulk discounts, audio books, training opportunities and more. Healing the Brain Stress, Trauma and LGBT/Q Youth www.HealingTheBrainBooks.com


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Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and LGBT/Q Youth Page 5 Healing the Brain Stress, Trauma and LGBT/Q Youth A Thousand Moms: Building Community Support for LGBT/Q* Youth in Foster/Adoptive Care 2367 Curry Road Schenectady NY 12303 www.AThousandMoms.Org 518 322-0607 AThousandMoms@yahoo.com *V​ ariations of this acronym are used throughout this book to reflect relevant populations. Some studies consider lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth but do not include transgender and questioning youth. Gay is used occasionally used as an umbrella term for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. Copyright: 2018 David Balog About the Author: David F. Balog,​ chief information officer of A Thousand Moms, was a longtime editor at the Dana Foundation. He created, wrote, and edited ​The Dana Sourcebook of Brain Science​ through four editions. More than 50,000 copies were distributed to elementary schools, middle schools, colleges, and to professionals and the general public. He worked with leading brain scientists and doctors, including Nobel laureates, throughout 12 years at the Dana Foundation.


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Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and LGBT/Q Youth Page 6 About Our Moms A Thousand Moms draws upon the skills and talents of exceptional community leaders to bring our message to the public. We support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBT/Q) youth in foster/adoptive care by educating parents, social workers, clergy, and the general public about the unique social and developmental needs of these youth. Clockwise from top, left:​ Shelle Hamil, Esther Taylor-Evans, the late Marcia Novey, Leesa Nixon, Dr. Ray Werking, and Karen Hill.


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Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and LGBT/Q Youth Page 7 Every aspect of our lives depends on the normal functioning of our brains. Our education depends on it; the education of our children depends on it; our relationships to our fellow humans depend on it; our hopes and aspirations are all represented in our brain. And all of these human qualities are at risk if something goes wrong with one’s brain. —W. Maxwell Cowan, M.D., Ph.D., Neuroscientist, Educator


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Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and LGBT/Q Youth Page 8 Table of Contents Introduction……………...7​ 1. Nurturing Strength and Confidence………9​ 2. Exploring the Brain in Words and Pictures……...1​ 5 3. The Power of Emotions……….3​ 2 4. Wounds that Time Alone Won’t Heal: The Biology of Chronic Stress……….3​ 5 5. Behind the Scenes in the Adolescent Brain……...​51 6. Understanding Concussions and CTE……………...​54 7. Minority Stress and LGBT/Q Health…………………..​59 8. Gender, Sexual Orientation, and the Brain………....​62 9. The Best Little Boy in the World……….6​ 9 10. A Darker Shade of Blue: Teen Depression…..​80 11. Substance Abuse: Saying No Is Very Hard to Do​……….​84 12. Teen Suicide: Death in Life’s Springtime……...​110 13. Great Brain Books in Fiction and Non-Fiction…….....​114 14. Books for LGBTQ Youth, Allies, Teachers, and Parents...........​126 15. A Glossary of Key Brain Science Terms……...1​ 32 16. Maps of the Brain……..​150 Appendix I: LGBT/Q Organizations and Resources…..​155 Appendix II: Resources on the Brain……………....​158 Resources for Professionals on LGBT/Q Communities...​171


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Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and LGBT/Q Youth Page 9 Introduction A Message from Fred Elia, president, A Thousand Moms An upstate New York youth was adopted at age five by his foster family. At age 16 he told his parents he was gay and the response was disastrous. Citing moral beliefs, the family went to court to have the adoption annulled. And the judge allowed it. own household At 16, Russell (not his real name) was returned to the custody of the county, and, typical for foster youth his age, he was not re-adopted. He now heads into adulthood without the love and support offered by a family. At age 18, he has left the child welfare system and legally is the head of his A household of one. That his story remains not uncommon is incredibly sad, despite progress on marriage equality and other gains. LGBT/Q youth in foster/adoptive care face what has been called “stress on steroids.” Statistics reflect this crisis: Homeless gay youth account for more than 40 per cent of the entire teen homeless population. They stand at highest risk of substance abuse, depression, and suicide. Marcia Novey, my colleague and co-founder of A Thousand Moms, often said that behavior is the language of emotions. And if there is a source for behaviors and


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Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and LGBT/Q Youth Page 10 emotions in children and youth, we find it in the brain and based on trauma, due to abuse and severe neglect and their subsequent removal to foster care. Adding to the stress of LGBT/Q youth estranged from their birth parents, is coming to terms with a gender identity and/or sexual orientation that are not what their peers are experiencing. Another crucial aspect is separation--displacement from a familiar surrounding--no matter how abusive. We honor Marcia with this publication. As parents and as professionals in child welfare, we want to understand the youth we serve as much as possible. Learning about the brain and how it enables our memories, our emotions, and our behavior will help us all understand each other better and give us support in our important roles. Healing the Brain ​explores critical issues youth and their families confront every day and adverse behavior that may result: substance abuse; memory and learning difficulties, depression, and more. These experiences shape their futures. By understanding and supporting our youth and their challenges we can bring about greater respect and less conflict--internal and external-- among these exceptional youth. In a world awash in stress, we believe this book will bring valuable information a widespread audience. A Thousand Moms presents workshops on stress-related topics for all audiences and we will be happy to discuss them with you. Sincerely, Fred Elia President, A Thousand Moms www.AThousandMoms.org athousandmoms@yahoo.com 518 322-0607


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Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and LGBT/Q Youth Page 11 Chapter One Nurturing Strength and Confidence Trainings by A Thousand Moms for foster/adoptive parents and social work staff employ the concepts of E​ rik Erikson and Abraham Maslow. Erikson generated interest and research on human development through the lifespan. Maslow, author of the acclaimed book T​ oward a Psychology of Being​, believed o​ ne must satisfy basic needs before progressing to meet higher level growth needs. Erikson’s Stages of Development Infancy (​ birth to 18 months) T​ rust vs. Mistrust Feeding. Children develop a sense of trust when caregivers provide reliabilty, care, and affection. A lack of this will lead to mistrust. Early Childhood.​ (2 to 3 years)​ ​Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt Toilet Training. Children need to develop a sense of personal control over physical skills and a sense of independence. Success leads to feelings of autonomy, failure results in feelings of shame and doubt. Preschool (​ 3 to 5 years)​ I​ nitiative vs. Guilt Exploration. Children need to begin asserting control and power over the environment. Success in this stage leads to a sense of purpose. Children who try to


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Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and LGBT/Q Youth Page 12 exert too much power experience disapproval, resulting in a sense of guilt. Wikimedia Commons Erikson and Maslow generated interest on human development through the lifespan. Adolescence (​ 12 to 18 years) ​Identity vs. Role Confusion Social Relationships. Teens need to develop a sense of self and personal identity. Success leads to an ability to stay true to yourself, while failure leads to role confusion and a weak sense of self. Young Adulthood ​(19 to 40 years) I​ ntimacy vs. Isolation Relationships. Young adults need to form intimate, loving relationships with other people. Success leads to strong relationships, while failure results in loneliness and isolation. Middle Adulthood​ (40 to 65 years) G​ enerativity vs. Stagnation Work and Parenthood. Adults need to create or nurture things that will outlast them, often by having children or creating a positive change that benefits other people. Success leads to feelings of usefulness and accomplishment, while failure results in shallow involvement in the world. School Age​ (6 to 11 years) I​ ndustry vs. Inferiority School. Children need to cope with new social and academic demands. Success leads to a sense of competence, while failure results in feelings of inferiority.


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Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and LGBT/Q Youth Page 13 Maturity (65 to death)​ ​Ego Integrity vs. Despair​ Reflection on Life. Older adults need to look back on life and feel a sense of fulfillment. Success at this stage leads to feelings of wisdom, while failure results in regret, bitterness, and despair. Maslow: The 12 Characteristics of a Self-Actualized Person Abraham Maslow describes t​ he good life​ as one directed towards self-actualization, the pinnacle need. Self-actualization occurs when you maximize your potential, doing the best that you are capable of doing. Maslow studied individuals whom he believed to be self-actualized, including Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein, to derive the common characteristics of the self-actualized person. Here are a selection of the most important characteristics, from his book Motivation and Personality: 1) Self-actualized people embrace the unknown and the ambiguous. They are not threatened or afraid of it; instead, they accept it, are comfortable with it and are often attracted by it. They do not cling to the familiar. Maslow quotes Einstein: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.” 2) They accept themselves, together with all their flaws. She perceives herself as she is, and not as she would prefer herself to be. With a high level of self-acceptance, she lacks defensiveness, pose or artificiality. Eventually, shortcomings come to be seen not as shortcomings at all, but simply as neutral personal characteristics. “They can accept their own human nature in the stoic style, with all its shortcomings, with all its discrepancies from the ideal image without feeling real concern [...] One does not complain about water because it is wet, or about rocks because they are hard [...] simply noting and observing what is the case, without either arguing the matter or demanding that it be otherwise.” Nonetheless, while self-actualized people are accepting of shortcomings that are immutable, they do feel ashamed or regretful about changeable deficits and bad habits. 3) They prioritize and enjoy the journey, not just the destination. “[They] often [regard] as ends in themselves many experiences and activities that are, for other people, only means. Our subjects are somewhat more likely to appreciate for its own sake, and in an absolute way, the doing itself; they can often enjoy for its own sake the getting to some place as well as the arriving. It is


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Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and LGBT/Q Youth Page 14 occasionally possible for them to make out of the most trivial and routine activity an intrinsically enjoyable game or dance or play.” Wikimedia Commons Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs holds that self-actualized people are motivated by growth and development. 4) While they are inherently unconventional, they do not seek to shock or disturb. Unlike the average rebel, the self-actualized person recognizes: “... the world of people in which he lives could not understand or accept [his unconventionality], and since he has no wish to hurt them or to fight with them over every triviality, he will go through the ceremonies and rituals of convention with a good-humored shrug and with the best possible grace [... Self-actualized people would] usually behave in a conventional fashion simply because no great issues are involved or because they know people will be hurt or embarrassed by any other kind of behavior.” 5) They are motivated by growth, not by the satisfaction of needs. While most people are still struggling in the lower rungs of the ‘Hierarchy of Needs,’ the self-actualized person is focused on personal growth. “Our subjects no longer strive in the ordinary sense, but rather develop. They attempt to grow to perfection and to develop more and more fully in their own style. The motivation of ordinary men is a striving for the basic need gratifications that they lack.”


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Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and LGBT/Q Youth Page 15 6) Self-actualized people have purpose. “[They have] some mission in life, some task to fulfill, some problem outside themselves which enlists much of their energies. [...] This is not necessarily a task that they would prefer or choose for themselves; it may be a task that they feel is their responsibility, duty, or obligation. [...] In general these tasks are non personal or unselfish, concerned rather with the good of mankind in general.” Self-actualized people have the wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naïvely, the basic goods of life. 7) They are not troubled by the small things.​ Instead, they focus on the bigger picture. “They seem never to get so close to the trees that they fail to see the forest. They work within a framework of values that are broad and not petty, universal and not local, and in terms of a century rather than the moment.[...] This impression of being above small things [...] seems to impart a certain serenity and lack of worry over immediate concerns that make life easier not only for themselves but for all who are associated with them.” 8) Self-actualized people are grateful. T​ hey do not take their blessings for granted, and by doing so, maintain a fresh sense of wonder towards the universe. “Self-actualizing people have the wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naïvely, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy, however stale these experiences may have become to others [...] Thus for such a person, any sunset may be as beautiful as the first one, any flower may be of breath-taking loveliness, even after he has seen a million flowers. [...] For such people, even the casual workaday, moment-to-moment business of living can be thrilling.” Because of their self-decision, self-actualized people have codes of ethics that are individualized and autonomous. 9) They share deep relationships with a few, but also feel identification and affection towards the entire human race. “Self-actualizing people have deeper and more profound interpersonal relations than any other adults [...] They are capable of more fusion, greater love, more perfect identification, more obliteration of the ego boundaries than other people would consider possible. [...This devotion] exists side by side with a widespreading [...] benevolence, affection, and friendliness. These people tend to be kind [and friendly] to almost everyone [...] of suitable character regardless of class, education, political belief, race, or color.”



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