Speaker Tonier “Neen” Cain to Reflect on Personal Trauma, Healing


This month, Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network will hold its 11th Annual Mental Health Benefit Luncheon featuring a keynote by Tonier “Neen” Cain, a Team Leader for the National Center of Trauma Informed Care and a nationally renowned public speaker with a powerful story of her own illustrating the devastating effects of untreated trauma.

Across the span of two decades in her lifetime, Tonier Cain experienced physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect; homelessness; and was the victim of many crimes. As a result, she became addicted to drugs and involved in crime herself, ultimately sustaining 83 arrests and 66 convictions.

Tonier’s story sets itself apart from so many other statistics, however, because when she was finally routed to a program that identified her invisible trauma as the foundation of all of her very visible behaviors. It was at this point that her transformation from victim to spokesperson for Trauma Informed Care began.

In Tonier Cain’s 2010 award winning documentary, Healing Neen, some eye-opening statistics were quoted:

- At the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women, for example, 80% of the population reported that they had experienced some form of trauma in their lifetime.

- Ninety percent of people obtaining services from the public mental health system had experienced trauma, while 85% of girls in the juvenile justice system had experienced early physical or sexual abuse.

- An even higher percentage of homeless women had experienced childhood trauma, with many more experiencing additional trauma while living on the streets. 

- Finally, the likelihood of drug abuse multiplies exponentially (up to thousands of percentage points) when a person has experienced trauma in their early life (The Adverse Child Experiences (ACE) Study, 2011; SAMHSA, 2010; Healing Neen, 2010).

While these statistics apply largely to women in the state of Maryland, research has shown that the effects are similar or worse across the nation, and do not change significantly based on gender, class, or race (ACE Study, 2011).

The Trauma Informed Care movement seeks to proactively address trauma cycles at their root as opposed to reacting to some of the after effects above, and spending billions of dollars on prison systems, substance abuse programs, academic/behavioral programming for “troubled kids,”  and trauma- reactive mental health intervention services.

The Trauma Informed Care initiative supports and educates all of our major institutions in implementing programming that does not re-traumatize its populations. In essence, TIC's programs avoid methods such as coercion, level systems, punitive/authoritarian interactions between staff and those in the program, restraint and isolation in favor of collaborative, relationship-based approaches that help empower trauma survivors while acknowledging the all-encompassing effects that trauma has had on their lives.

In Tonier Cain’s case, our nation’s  uninformed trauma institutions experienced at least 82 opportunities to make a positive difference in her life. We failed every time until, fortunately, on about the 83rd attempt we got it right.

“Treating my trauma totally broke that inter-generational curse [referring to the proven cycle of parents who have been abused abusing their own children due to not learning any differently]," she said (Healing Neen, 2010).

And, break that abusive cycle she did. Today, Tonier Cain is now a phenomenal mother to her daughter, whom, I might add, will carry the curse of abuse no further into the future.

To hear Tonier's inspirational story, join industry professionals, local dignitaries and other community members at Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network's 11th Annual Mental Health Benefit Luncheon Friday, May 11, 2012 at the Inverness Hotel and Conference Center. Registration and reception begin at 11:00am, with lunch being served at 11:30am. Tickets are available at www.admhn.org or by calling 303 779 9676.



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