Ruby Brown-Herring is an expert in her field. With over 20 years of experience in mental health program management, she oversees statewide juvenile justice, mental health and substance abuse policy and programming for the NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services. She also advises the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, teaches Mental Health First Aid and owns Herring Training and Consulting, LLC, which provides mental health training to nonprofits, school systems and colleges.
But despite all the professional expertise and knowledge, nothing prepared her for when she and her husband, Ty, admitted their daughter, Tamryn, to Holly Hill Hospital with major depressive disorder and suicidal ideation five years ago. “Everything I’d trained for went out the window,” says Ruby. “It was me, Mom. It was so difficult.”
When Tamryn’s outpatient counselor recommended Hope Reins, Ruby wasn’t too sure about equine therapy. “Tamryn had never been an outdoors girl,” she says. To her surprise, Tamryn loved the horses and thrived at the ranch. “She learned to express herself with her real feelings,” says Ruby. “Also, for her to get a horse to move from point A to B, was such a confidence booster.”
When Hope Reins CEO & Founder Kim Tschirret met Ruby, she immediately recognized the rich knowledge the mental health professional could share with the nonprofit and eventually persuaded her to join the Board of Directors. “Ruby shed a whole new light on how we look at trauma,” says Kim. “We learned to not ask ‘what’s wrong with you.’ Instead we ask ‘what happened to you.’”
This paradigm shift, according to Ruby, is the essence of being a trauma-informed organization. Hope Reins’ three unique attributes – ranch, rescue and restoration – line up amazingly well, says Ruby, with the three pillars of trauma-informed care: safety, connections and managing emotions. “Traumatized kids need safety, and Hope Reins is a safe place.” They also need one safe relationship in their lives – an adult who can understand the pervasive impact of pain. “By building a relationship with a horse, kids can grasp God’s redemptive relationship with us.”
And equine therapy offers ways to effectively learn how to manage emotions and channel life skills necessary to succeed. “When kids and their families are in acute crisis, they crave secure, nonjudgmental relationships. We wrap ourselves not only around the child, but the whole family.”