Remembering Trauma: Connecting the Dots Between Complex Trauma and Misdiagnosis in Youth

By the Center for Child Trauma Assessment, Services, and Interventions (CCTASI) in collaboration with partners from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) and creator of the ReMoved film series, Nathanael Matanick, 16 minutes,

The story of Manny, who’s in his 20s, opens in the new film “Remembering Trauma” with him having a conversation with his caseworker about having gotten into another fight. When asked what happened, what he was thinking, Manny replies, “Nothing.”

We then see Manny start the fight, overreacting to a situation that reminded him of the violence he witnessed and experienced as a child. When Manny goes home to his girlfriend and their baby, his shirt is bloody, his face bruised, and his girlfriend is disgusted by his behavior. It seems that Manny does things like this all the time. When Manny goes to the bathroom to clean himself up and looks in the mirror, we flash to his life as little Manny, a 6-year-old whose father was a constant threat to everyone in his family.

We then follow Manny through school, see him talking with a counselor, and then having an encounter with older bullies who harass him and his sister on their way home from school. We later see adult Manny talking with a therapist, where he shares how he’s been given multiple diagnoses as well as medications and how nothing seems to help. The therapist explains that the challenges Manny has in his life are normal, rational responses to trauma he has endured.

There are two versions of this short video — one with expert commentary (run time 32 minutes) and one without. For someone preparing to be a foster parent, or who is already caring for a child or youth who acts out, it may be worth taking the time to watch the shorter version of the video first and then later watch the version with commentary. Doing so allows you to simply witness and be present the first time through as the story of Manny unfolds. If you don’t know much about the impacts trauma can have on a person’s life, you will begin to intuitively connect the dots.

Following that by watching the longer version will solidify your understanding of what’s happening in the child’s brain. In the longer version, expert commentary is provided by a cast of mental health professionals including Cassandra Kisiel, Ph.D., director of the Center for Child Trauma Assessment, Services, and Interventions at Northwestern University. She and others walk viewers through an overview of complex trauma, and provide context and explanations for the ways that complex trauma can present in children and youth, including the importance of employing a “trauma lens” at school and in the juvenile justice system.

Created by the team who produced “ReMoved,” “Remembering Trauma” has a similar style and tone as “ReMoved.” Though at times the music can be a little overbearing, overall “Remembering Trauma” is a powerful short film that paints a realistic and emotional picture of what daily trauma looks like and how it continues to impact a child’s life into adolescence and adulthood.

In the end, the takeaway is simple: Behavioral responses to trauma are completely normal, so what is the child trying to communicate through their behavior? This video helps you begin to decipher what that message might be.

Reviewed by Christie Renick

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.