Thinking About Learning

Notes from Dearborn Academy

The Enduring Impact of Trauma
mtringali ::: Emotional Health

Photo by brick2dust

Written by Howard Rossman, Ph.D., Director, Dearborn Academy

Looking in from the outside, Jerry West has had a storybook life. One of the elite guards of the NBA, and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame Jerry West led the Los Angeles Lakers to world championships as a player and then as one of the most successful basketball executives in sports history, maintaining a championship level team for many year. But lingering under the surface has been deep depression, low self esteem, suicidal ideation and underlying rage which affected his social relationships resulting from years of abuse by his father as he was growing up. 

Jerry West revealed details of his life in his new autobiography, West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life, against the advice of his family. In the book, and then in television interviews, he talks openly about the years of abuse he suffered and his consequent depression. No matter what success he achieved, he has always battled feeling of depression and low self worth.
West’s decision to talk about very personal thing in public was driven by a need to break the silence, and to help him heal. West’s decision is a brave act of a very public figure, and serves to remind us all of the importance of making help available to young people whose lives have been marked by abuse. It is also a model for people to find others they can talk with about their experience. For us, it underlies the importance of providing an informed environment in which all staff are aware of the need of traumatized students to be provided with a safe and consistent environment, to understand that their reactiveness may be reflective of a predetermined path, and that they require time and effort to develop and sustain trusting relationships. We also provide specialized treatment such as Eye Movement Desensitization Retraining (EMDR), which provides opportunities for students to process their experience without being overwhelmed by the feelings that usually accompany their memories. Dearborn is committed to the process of continuing to enhance its offerings to help students who have experienced trauma.