This week (May 3-9, 2020) is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. May 7 is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. We claim our children are sacred but the majority of Lakota people don’t walk the talk.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) “are stressful or traumatic events, including abuse and neglect. They may also include household dysfunction such as witnessing domestic violence or growing up with family members who have substance use disorders. ACEs are strongly related to the development and prevalence of a wide range of health problems throughout a person’s lifespan, including those associated with substance misuse.
ACEs include, but are not limited to: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, intimate partner violence, mother treated violently, substance misuse within household, household mental illness, parental separation or divorce and an incarcerated household member.” https://tinyurl.com/ya94k789
Lots of innocent Lakota children are suffering trauma while you read this. Parents, guardians, grandparents or other caregivers are inflicting abuse on Lakota wakanyeja every minute of every day. Trauma isn’t just physical beatings; mental, emotional and spiritual maltreatment are also child abuse.
There are many little children, as well as teenagers, acting out the effects of their trauma. There are many children on our reservations who learn how to bully by watching their parents or grandparents. People responsible for caring for children may often believe they only have to feed, clothe and provide shelter for the small children in their homes. They remain ignorant to how their bad behavior is traumatizing the children living in their home.
For example, there are Lakota people whom are hopelessly addicted to cussing, drinking alcohol, using meth, etc. Substance abuse regularly happens in front of our Lakota children in the home. There are also Lakota children witnessing extreme levels of violence in their homes. Yelling, physical assaults, nonstop use of of the word “fuck” – along with other forms of adult dysfunction – are behaviors our children and teens are exposed to every day.
People who think they have to cuss regularly inflict trauma. It’s as bad as alcohol or drug abuse. Cussing is a form of violence; it conjures negative energy which affects everyone around you. It’s also a form of ignorance when you cuss all the time; or are unable to carry on a normal conversation without saying “fuck” between every other word.
Also, when every other word out of your mouth is fuck – you can be certain the children and teens in your care will follow the terrible example you’re setting. This is obvious in the number of small children who call adults “bitch” or other disrespectful names. It’s not funny when I hear a 4-year-old child say “fuck you” to an adult. Negative adult behaviors inflict trauma on our Lakota wakanyeja.
Right this very minute, there are little girls, little boys and babies in diapers at home alone. They don’t have clean clothes. Some children don’t have any food in the house because the TANF/SNAP card was sold for drugs or alcohol. These are traumatized children who will grow into adults and suffer a myriad of problems in their lives.
The trauma children suffer stays with them. It isn’t forgotten when they reach adulthood. They will likely inflict the same kind of trauma on their own children, perpetuating the violence we all witness on a regular basis. Our children deserve a healthy childhood in a home with caring, sober adults. Our children need to eat a good meal, have clean clothes to wear, as well as look forward to a safe home daily. Parents are obligated to help their children grow into healthy adults.
It’s up to you to raise healthy children. Do your part to break the vicious cycle.
Cante Hunkesni Win (Lakota) is an award-winning Journalist.