A Story of Trauma, Survival, and Redemption

Sharon Turner is a model of positivity & hard work, and is a great example of AHCCCS’s commitment to Community.  She has been with AHCCCS since 2016 starting out as a Maintenance Technician, is a certified locksmith, and is now the Assistant Facilities Manager.  Many employees would be surprised to learn that Sharon wasn’t supposed to be here.  Sharon wasn’t supposed to live.

Sharon Turner as a toddler
Sharon Turner as a toddler

For Mental Health Awareness month, I sat down with Sharon to hear of her harrowing life story – the pain and suffering as well as the love and joy – to hopefully share with others who experience trauma or need help recovering from trauma.  Sharon hopes that by sharing her story, others will feel empowered to love life and help someone in need.

Sharon Turner was born in 1962 in Saint Lucia.  Her birth mother was a young 15-year-old, and in love with Sharon’s birth-father.  Unfortunately, things did not work out and her birth father decided to marry another woman.  Distraught with grief, unable to take care of her children, and suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) & Postpartum Depression (PPD), Sharon’s birth-mother did the unthinkable:  she lovingly wrapped Sharon in blankets, stuffed her into a hallow in a tree, and walked away.

· You shouldn’t ever forget what happened, but you should always forgive.  Search for inner peace and closure.

Sharon Turner

A short time later, workers clearing the nearby field heard the cries of a baby and found Sharon – alive but scared.  Newspapers dubbed her “The Child That Came Back From the Grave.”  Taken to the hospital, Sharon eventually made a full recovery.  Her birth-mother was arrested.  Shunned by her community, she was committed.  At that time, citizens of Saint Lucia were not aware (officially) of PTSD and PPD, and so Sharon’s birth-mother received shock treatment and other procedures.

Luckily for Sharon, a nurse that cared for her couldn’t let her go, and officially adopted her.  Sharon spent the next 17 years growing up in England (which at that time still ruled the county of Saint Lucia) before moving to New York City.  Eventually, Sharon moved to Arizona, and has resided here for the past 14 years.

Sharon recently had the opportunity to speak to her birth-mother.  A local Saint Lucia newspaper had done a story, and reached out to Sharon because they had located her birth-mother.  During her long conversation, Sharon’s birth-mother expected her to be negative, angry, and hateful.  Instead, Sharon proclaimed her love and thanks for her birth-mother.   Sharon had forgiven her birth-mother.  She understood what she must have gone through, and had made peace with the events. 

Knowing how precious life is, Sharon has had the opportunity to help those in need.

Sharon Turner at AHCCCS
Sharon Turner at AHCCCS

When asked about what others dealing with trauma can do, Sharon offered the following:

· You shouldn’t ever forget what happened, but you should always forgive.  Search for inner peace and closure.

· The past does not define who you are.  You can always start over and re-invent yourself.

· Although horrible, traumatic events can serve to motivate your to become better.

· Traumatic events can help you to understand what others are going through.

· Life is hard, for sure, but it could always be worse.

Looking for resources for yourself or others?  Check out This Way Up – a website that provides online learning programs, education and research in anxiety, depressive disorders and physical health. 

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University of Arizona Offers Graduate Certificate Program in Military Families

The University of Arizona is now offering a 12 credit graduate certificate in working with military families. The program aims to improve professionals regarding military and cultural leadership, normative family processes, and stress and coping strategies. Students will learn about cultural competency regarding providing services and working with members of the military and their families.

Courses include: Understanding the Modern United States Military Family, Trauma Informed Care, and Leadership, Mentoring and Advocacy, among others. 

“In order to understand and work with our military and veteran population, one must first understand where they came from, that being the military,” said Cody Nicholls, Assistant Dean of Students, Military and Veteran Engagement.

For more information, email Dr. Sheena Brown: sheenab@email.arizona.edu

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CDC Releases Suicide Report Among Lesbian and Gay Males

The Centers for Disease Control recently released the first known study regarding suicides deaths among lesbian and gay individuals. Suicides among Lesbian and Gay Male Individuals: Findings from the National Violent Death Reporting System is a summary of multi-state surveillance system data.

The report found a great presence of physical heath, job, and relationship problems among gay male decedents, and intimate partner/other relationship problems among lesbian decedents. Diagnosed behavioral health conditions and a history of suicide planning and intent were also more common for both lesbian and gay males.

The findings are important to public health to better target culturally sensitive programming for the lesbian and gay population. Data used for the survey was gathered from the National Violent Death Reporting System from 2003-2014 from 18 US states.

For more information on the report contact dvpinquiries@cdc.gov.

Arizona’s state suicide prevention plan is being reviewed March 18, 2019 at AHCCCS. For information about the meeting, contact Kelli.williams@azahcccs.gov

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