Welcome to “The Well”, a new resource for people committed to building a stronger, more resilient and a compassionate community for our children and ourselves.
As we write this, we are watching with sadness the news unfolding in Parkland, Florida, where a 19-year- old man with a troubled past stalked the halls of his former high school with a legally purchased, AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, killing 17 people.
Even as we try to wrap our brains around what should be unimaginable, we are forced to face the normality of this tragedy.
The carnage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School marks the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook, which in 2012 took the lives of 20 students and six adults in Newtown, Conn.
The Florida shooting eclipsed even that other grim milestone, the 1999 siege at Columbine High School in Colorado that killed 13. The New York Times reports that since Sandy Hook, at least 439 people have been shot in 273 school shootings, with 112 killed. Twelve of those shootings can be classified as mass shootings, in which four or more people have been shot. On average, there have been seven school shootings each month since.
The public discourse after a mass shooting typically entails a seemingly futile debate over gun control and alarmingly simplistic declarations about the failings of our mental health system, as if the real threat came from people enduring mental illness.
Those of us who are committed to building a “resilient” or “trauma-informed” community understand that the threat goes much deeper — in the ways in which our systems, policies and culture perpetuate cycles of neglect and ruined lives.
If you received this via email, you are already aware of the terms “trauma-informed,” “toxic stress” and “adverse childhood experiences.” You’ve learned something about the ACE Study, which 20 years ago demonstrated the correlation of ACEs with lifelong health and social problems. If you’ve received this, you’ve expressed a desire to continue learning and to help build or rebuild systems that can help us treat and prevent this suffering. Thank you. “The Well” is designed to assist in that effort.
“The Well” borrows it name from the new book by Nadine Burke Harris, “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity.”
Harris is a San Francisco-based pediatrician and founder of the Center for Youth Wellness, which was featured in the documentary “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and The Science of Hope.” Since our first local screening of the film in September 2017, more than 1,500 area residents have participated in screenings and discussions about the film and what it would mean to credibly claim that we live in a “resilient” or “trauma-informed” community.
But we’re drawing on another source for our blog’s name — the metaphor of the well as a source, not just for life-giving water, but of communion. Since ancient times, wells have symbolized the shared resources necessary for communities to endure and thrive. This is our vision.
It’s not easy, and we have a long way to go, but we’re setting out on this path and will not waver in our commitment. This blog will keep you plugged in to what’s happened and what’s next, always with the intent of enlisting you.
This is a community-building endeavor and as such will owe no allegiance to any system, agency or funder. The intent is to enable residents at any station in life to build the kind of community that we all can be proud of and inspired to call home.
In her book, Dr. Harris provides for us a glimpse of what is possible and a sense of urgency making it happen:
“ACEs might be a health crisis with a medical problem at its root, but its effects ripple out far beyond our biology. Toxic stress affects how we learn, how we parent, how we react at home and work, and what we create in our communities. It affects our children, our earning potential, and the very ideas we have about what we are capable of. What starts out in the wiring of one brain cell to another ultimately affects all of the cells of our society — from our families to our schools to our workplaces to our jails.”
We have serious challenges in our community — our health outcomes are among the worst in a state that is among the worst in the nation — but there is nothing wrong with our community that can’t be fixed by what’s right about it.
The solutions are within our grasp.