According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), trauma is a result of a harmful event(s) occurring in an individual’s life that has adverse effects on how they grow and function. But what causes trauma? Would you recognize and know how to respond to trauma if you saw it? If not, trauma training is a great place to start.
The Spark Opportunity Giving Circle provided a grant to CHRIS 180 to finance a training program for nine community partners that supply support services in the Thomasville Heights neighborhood. The purpose of the training program was to help organizations better understand, recognize and manage trauma in their work. During the training, organizations were taught the various types of trauma that can be experienced and its impact on a person, especially children. Since a child’s brain has yet to fully develop, traumatizing events can change how the brain grows and has lasting effects on a person’s life. The training includes an opportunity for participants to hear from experts.
In a recent training, CHRIS 180 showed Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’s TED talk on childhood trauma and its lifelong affects. She explains the Adverse Childhood Experience Survey (or ACES) which is a survey of 17,500 people who have had an adverse childhood experience (which include different types of abuse, witnessing parental divorce, domestic violence, and other negative experiences) and correlates the results to health outcomes. Research found that the higher the ACE score, the worse health outcomes people have. For example, if your ACE score was 4 or more, you were 4.5 times more likely to experience depression and 12 times more likely to commit suicide compared to those who had an ACE score of zero. As Dr. Harris put it, some people may try to marginalize these results but these types of health outcomes impact everyone.
For nonprofits that interact with people who have experienced trauma, what can be done with this information? The CHRIS 180 training walks participants through how to provide trauma informed care through the Trauma STAR (Safety, Trustworthiness, Awareness and Relationships) system. Regardless of the type of services provided, trauma-informed organizations should provide these four things for clients and staff. Trauma that clients experience can also impact the staff who work with them, whether that be manifested in a sense of burnout or in secondhand (or vicarious) trauma. Thus, self-awareness and care is needed on the individual and organizational level in order to not continue the cycle of trauma for clients and staff.
In addition to CHRIS 180, several resources exist to advance trauma-informed care and services. Prevent Child Abuse Georgia works to ensure that there are safe and stable environments for children and families to flourish in. It offers Connections Matter trainings that help community members understand what ACES are, how to prevent childhood trauma and how to support those who have experienced trauma. The training is open to anyone who wants to attend, including parents, educators and local businesses. Another organization that is working on trauma informed care is Resilient Georgia. Resilient Georgia leads a coalition to develop a closely aligned trauma-informed public and private network with the goal of creating a birth through 26-year-old integrated behavioral health system for Georgia. With resources like these and others, nonprofits should be able to find a trauma training that enables it to provide a more holistic approach to serving the community.