By Olivia Orman
Trauma has become a widely encountered challenge for individuals, whether visible or unseen. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 61% of men and 51% of women report at least one traumatic event in their lifetimes.
To provide support for those who’ve gone through trauma or know someone going through trauma, poet Mona Hunt and illustrator Matt Murphy joined forces to facilitate a trauma awareness book signing event. This event fostered a deeper understanding of trauma, provided recovery resources, and united attendees under a common cause.
Expanding Awareness of Trauma
Mona and Matt’s trauma awareness book signing event took place on March 28 at Taytro’s Bar & Bistro in Festus, Missouri. This dinner function included a book signing and poem reading, opening remarks from the poet, illustrator, and publisher, live entertainment, and introductions from trauma recovery vendors in the community.
The storytellers’ premier book, The Chains That Bound Us, portrays the impact of trauma from the perspective of a bystander. Mona expresses: “I began writing this collection of poetry eight years ago as an attempt to make sense of the pain and suffering due to childhood trauma I was witnessing and then experiencing as an observer. I felt so helpless, but with every poem I wrote, I sensed relief and recognized the healing power writing was providing for me. My hope is the reader will use this book as a tool to move beyond surviving trauma in order to become a thriver in life.”
While the poems in The Chains That Bound Us depict the impact of trauma on individuals and their loved ones, the corresponding illustrations provide a glimpse into trauma from an artist who has experienced it firsthand. Matt comments: “I was able to rise above my past addictions and trauma, but I will never forget the feelings I carried with me. These drawings come from those memories, and Mona’s poetry allowed me to tap into that place. I hope my artwork shows people they are not alone in their feelings, that others have been to this place too, and that it is possible to understand and overcome it.”
While Mona and Matt primarily rallied support through a large attendance, trauma recovery vendors in the community also joined forces with both storytellers to share how they work with those in recovery. Vendors in attendance included Adult & Teen Challenge St. Louis, COMTREA, Finding Grace Ministries, Find Your Rest Ministries, Hillsboro Hawkpack, Jefferson County Family YMCA, Jefferson County Health Department, Jefferson County Homeless Youth Initiative, and more.
Tonja G’Sell, Associate Vice President, School Liaison Program at COMTREA, is one vendor that connected attendees with youth programs. She states: “I believe my presentation did educate the audience about our school-based program. When people approached my resource table, they were familiar with COMTREA’s dental, and primary, and outpatient programs. People did not seem as familiar with our school-based program.”
A Small Step for a Large Impact
Though trauma will continue to be part of individuals’ lives, connecting them with the resources they need can help them recognize the trauma they’ve experienced without it continuing to define them. Mona and Matt’s trauma awareness book signing event served as a link to community and peer support, illustrating how there is somewhere or someone to go to when we experience our darkest hours.
These storytellers plan on staying involved with the community to promote trauma awareness. Mona explains: “We are currently looking to partner with substance abuse coalitions and local school districts. This would enable our book and our personal experiences to be tools that encourage dialogue in the community regarding the connection between trauma and substance abuse. I am a firm believer that when people are allowed to tell their story, healing begins for the storyteller and the listener.”
Olivia Orman is a contributing writer from St. Louis.