2 July 2018

The Damage Being Done

Barbara Ferullo

The separation of immigrant children from their families, as well as the indefinite detention of families with their children, subjects both groups to potential long-term, and in some cases, irreversible damage.

Our ability to think and reason don’t develop until we are 3 years old.  those children under five years old, and especially those 3 years old and under, are the most at risk.

For all of us, no matter what our age, chronic and persistent stress, or what we call “toxic stress”, can result in changes to the structures of the brain that can become permanent.  Whether a child or an adult, the earlier the stress, the length of time of the stress, and the suddenness or severity of the stress, determine the amount of damage done.  It can take years for this damage to be healed.

When a person feels threatened and frightened, the body increases it’s output of adrenaline and cortisol to better prepare it for a “fight or flight” response.  There are two additional responses, “freeze” or “surrender”.  As it’s meant to, it’s a great mechanism that works in the short term to protect us.  However, when the stress continues, or is severe enough, it can become problematic.  The adrenaline and cortisol output remain elevated, eventually exacting a toll in wear and tear on the body.  The person becomes constantly fearful, hypervigilant, and sees threats all around, even when no threat exists.  They’re unable to think clearly, and become prone to extremist thinking.  They have trouble regulating their emotions, and can have poor impulse  control.

This isn’t something any one of us would like to go through. Being a bystander can make us feel helpless. Activism decreases that sense of helplessness and hopelessness.  There are many credible groups that lobby for change that welcome volunteers, and without the need to resort to violence.  See what’s out there, and find one that fits.