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With Anxiety, Depression, and Suicide Skyrocketing among Teens and Young Adults, Local Author Helps Survivors of Sex Trafficking cope in Healthy Ways
Author JM Buckler offers a series of programs on the healing power of the pen, at locations throughout Austin and in collaboration with local community leaders.
Austin, TX – From the humiliation of social media bullying to the terror of mass shootings, it’s not surprising that today’s American youth are facing a mental health crisis. The research is alarming: According to a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology in 2019, major depression episodes increased 63%, and serious psychological distress increased by 71%, among 18-25 year olds in roughly the past decade. Meanwhile, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2019, there was a 47% increase of suicides among 15-19 year olds between 2000-2017; and according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2018, as many as 15% of boys and 30% of girls ages 14-18 currently inflict self-harm, such as cutting or burning. A root problem, suggests one of the studies, is the lack of healthy coping skills.
The Wisdom of Writing
Intent on helping foster those skills among youth, award-winning local author JM Buckler has created a young adult fantasy fiction series that she dubs “secret self-help books,” a GPS of sorts, to help youth navigate through life’s hardships. Amidst gripping, suspense-filled storytelling, Buckler’s central characters – themselves teens and young adults – face the gamut of real-life turbulence and trauma that pulls no punches, ranging from domestic violence and sexual assault to suicide and war. Through internal struggles that readers witness along the way, the characters cultivate a spiritual strength they did not know they had at the outset. They are flawed and complex, like most people, and they stumble and fall, even unravel in some extreme cases – making them relatable, as they model both the crushing blows that life can deal the internal process we must go through, to ultimately triumph over circumstance.
The Healing of Writing
Through the process of writing these dramas, Buckler found herself undergoing deep healing and personal transformation, on the mental, emotional, and even physical levels – leading her to actively explore the power of writing as a tool for healing pain and trauma, in particular, among “troubled youth.” When Buckler started offering workshops that invite participants to write, and then rewrite, their story, she discovered that even at a juvenile detention center with “dangerous” inmates – she had a marked impact, helping the youth organize their thoughts about and reframe their experience of trauma, in turn helping release its grip on them. Writing, she discovered, puts us in the driver’s seat of our lives, whether we write fiction or personal narrative, and whether we have a talent for writing or not.
The Science of Writing
Most recently, Buckler stumbled upon the work of James PennebakerPhD, a psychology professor at UT Austin, who pioneered the Expressive Writing method – the act of writing out your feelings, without paying attention to grammar, punctuation, or sentence structure. Three decades of research – published in peer-reviewed medical journals such as the Journal of the American Medical Association, and uncannily resembling the programs that Buckler intuitively offered youth – revealed that writing is one of the most powerful forms of self-expression, with a healing impact on the mental, emotional, and physical levels. The reason it works, Pennebaker says, is that the act of consolidating thoughts into written language slows down monkey mind and helps us organize, understand, and extract meaning from events that otherwise might leave us feeling powerless and heading into a tailspin. Added bonus: Expressive Writing is free, private, and can be done anywhere, anytime.
“Through the character of a relatable teenage girl – who chooses to respond to a traumatic upheaval with courage, honesty, and compassion – author JM Buckler, like TS Eliot and JK Rowling, has created a fantasy world that inspires us to rethink reality: Are we truly victims of circumstance, in need of rescue? Or by taking a leap of faith and daring to reimagine what is possible, can we perhaps create another world entirely?…Not just a thrilling escape but also a spiritual blueprint for living.” – Suna Senman, LMSW Life Transformation Facilitator
“A wonderful fantasy novel with vivid descriptions and compelling characters. I was gripped by the story—magic, suspense, and an intriguing world. A reading adventure!” - Christa Santangelo Ph.D., Assistant Clinical Professor at UCSF School of Medicine, author of A New Theory of Teenagers
About JM Buckler
JM Buckler has been featured in top media including ABC, NBC, and Fox. She is the award-winning author of Seeker of Time, Stillness of Time, and Passage of Time, young adult fantasy-fiction books which have received praise from the likes of Kirkus Reviews, Literary Titan, Readers' Favorite. Game-changers in the young adult marketplace, Buckler’s novels combine electric storytelling with deep spiritual lessons and meaningful takeaway on how to cope with life’s hardships – addressing everything from betrayal and heartbreak, to violence and death.
Buckler is a mentor and educator at TheKey2Free, a non-profit organization that provides safe transition housing, education, and therapeutic care for human trafficking survivors. There, she teaches writing as a tool for healing to clients participating in the LAUNCH program. JM Buckler also offers writing-based programs to diverse audiences – teaching how to use the power of the pen to reshape and reclaim one’s life, as Buckler did when she began her own writing journey: After years of drifting through life, feeling insecure and lacking a sense of meaning or purpose – always trying to be the image and fill role that others held out for her – Buckler took a leap of faith and walked out on the person she was supposed to be, instead diving into the world of her imaginary characters. Through developing their lives, Buckler discovered that she cultivated her own – ultimately finding her calling and passion, transforming her reality, and emerging a grounded and confident young woman.
While working on her new fantasy series, The Capturing Time Saga, J.M. Buckler has turned her attention to publishing articles on the power of writing as a form of medicine – interviewing leaders in the fields of medicine, science, and academia. She published an article in First for Women magazine and was featured in Woman’s World magazine, which collectively reach 10 million readers.
Buckler lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and Havanese dog.
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