Creating Trauma-Sensitive Communities

Posted October 16, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog creatingtraumasensitive 2017

How can orga­ni­za­tions pur­su­ing a two-gen­er­a­tion approach begin to address trau­ma — such as com­mu­ni­ty vio­lence, home­less­ness and nat­ur­al dis­as­ters — with the chil­dren and par­ents they serve?

Dr. Denese Sherv­ing­ton explored this top­ic dur­ing a webi­nar — Under­stand­ing and Address­ing Men­tal Well-Being and Trau­ma in Com­mu­ni­ties — with the Casey Foundation’s Fam­i­ly-Cen­tered Com­mu­ni­ty Change part­ners. Sherv­ing­ton is both the pres­i­dent and CEO of the Insti­tute for Women and Eth­nic Stud­ies and a clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of psy­chi­a­try at Tulane University’s School of Medicine.

Her advice?

  • con­duct in-depth train­ing on trau­ma-informed care with staff at all levels;
  • imple­ment uni­ver­sal screen­ing and assess­ment procedures;
  • iden­ti­fy a net­work of part­ners and estab­lish refer­ral agree­ments to ensure res­i­dents can access high-qual­i­ty, low-cost men­tal health ser­vices that match their needs; and
  • pro­vide com­ple­men­tary heal­ing expe­ri­ences — such as nature out­ings, yoga, arts and trans­for­ma­tive jus­tice circles.

Men­tal health and the sys­tems around it can­not just be focused on one per­son at a time or an indi­vid­ual treat­ment,” says Sherv­ing­ton. Instead, orga­ni­za­tions should focus on short- and long-term solu­tions to improve the var­i­ous fac­tors that influ­ence an individual’s emo­tion­al state and phys­i­cal well-being, such as edu­ca­tion­al and employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties, qual­i­ty recre­ation spaces, and trans­porta­tion options, she explains.

Watch the webinar

Suc­cess­ful efforts require action at mul­ti­ple lev­els,” says Sherv­ing­ton. We must com­bine strate­gies that not only reduce stres­sors but enhance resilience and cop­ing skills, as well.”

As a first step, Sherv­ing­ton out­lined four ques­tions that two-gen­er­a­tion part­ners can ask about advanc­ing their work with trau­ma-sen­si­tive solu­tions. These are:

  1. What assets do we cur­rent­ly have?
  2. What are the skills, tools and infra­struc­ture that we will need?
  3. What oth­er sup­port and part­ner­ships will be necessary?
  4. How will we mea­sure the impact of our intervention?

As a next step, orga­ni­za­tions can begin to devel­op a plan and piv­ot to a more trau­ma-sen­si­tive approach with chil­dren and fam­i­lies. Sherv­ing­ton points to the Pre­ven­tion Institute’s frame­work for address­ing and pre­vent­ing com­mu­ni­ty trau­ma as a use­ful tool to assist part­ners with this process.

Learn more about fam­i­ly-cen­tered com­mu­ni­ty change

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