As the country honors its veterans Monday, a small group of Petalumans will take time to recognize another product of war: trauma.

The Bernstein Institute for Integrative Therapy and Trauma Treatment is hosting a public forum for the discussion and healing of trauma.

The event — for veterans and civilians alike — will be held Monday night at Aqus Caf? a few hours after the annual Petaluma Veterans Parade rolls through town.

Aqus, in Petaluma's Foundry Wharf area, has been the site of a variety of community discussions. Monday's will include opening remarks by trauma expert Dr. Peter Bernstein and Wes Easley, a veteran, retired police officer and staff member at the Bernstein Institute in Petaluma. Afterward, the audience will be encouraged to participate in guided discussions about their own experience with trauma.

"There are so many people in our community, not only retired veterans and military personnel and their families, but regular people who have experienced trauma in their lives and really don't understand what trauma is," said Jenny Stevenson, an administrator at the Petaluma counseling institute.

Foreclosure, bankruptcy, being a crime victim or witness, even the loss of a pet are traumatic events that sometimes aren't recognized as such, she said.

Talking with others in a safe, supportive atmosphere can be healing, she said.

Ultimately, the goal is for those who have experienced trauma – in whatever form it may have come – to realize there is hope, and from that, to begin healing.

The adage "time heals all wounds" just isn't true, said Petaluman Steve Rustad, who helped organize the event. Rustad's father was a disabled veteran whose trauma affected the entire family for generations.

"Time doesn't heal," he said. "Unhealed wounds show up in aberrant behavior, antisocial behavior or addictive behavior down the road."

Emotional trauma can be like physical trauma in some respects, he said.

"It's like breaking a leg. If the leg is treated properly, it is actually stronger," he said. "If emotional trauma is uncovered and dealt with, the person can emerge stronger, with resilience and hope."

The event begins at 7 p.m. at Aqus, at Second and H streets. Organizers hope it will become a regular event.

(You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or

Crisis Care: The new mental institutions

Sonoma County has a chronic shortage of psychiatric hospital beds. As as a result, a growing number of mentally ill residents are ending up in local emergency rooms and in the jail system. A four-part series, run on four consecutive Sundays, examines the causes and ramifications of the current state of the county’s mental health system, and the people who are impacted the most.

Aug. 6 — Hospitals: The closure of two psychiatric hospitals in Sonoma County has left a gaping hole.

Aug. 13 — Jail: The Sonoma County Jail has become the largest psychiatric treatment facility in the county.

Today — Solutions: Sonoma County explores ways to improve services to people suffering from severe mental illness.

Aug. 27 — Your response: Readers share their stories about Sonoma County's mental health system.

Ongoing coverage:

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We want to hear about your experience with local psychiatric emergency services. What do you do when you or a loved one faces a mental health crisis? Have you or a loved one sat in a hospital bed waiting to be transferred to an out-of-county psychiatric hospital or other mental health facility? Have you or a loved one received psychiatric services in the Sonoma County Jail’s mental health unit? Please send a brief account of your experience to Martin Espinoza at