Trauma-informed care: A way to understanding the ‘what’
Rather than asking the question “What’s wrong with you?”, a shift to “What happened to you?” – brings one closer to recognizing the needs of the individual.
This simple shift in thinking leads to insight and understanding of physical and emotional challenges.
In 1998, a study from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente was completed by more than 17,000 middle-class Americans and documented quite clearly that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can contribute to negative adult physical and mental health. ACEs is a questionnaire of 10 yes/no questions related to different types of abuse, neglect and other hallmarks of a difficult childhood. Each “yes” earns a score of one. The higher the score, the more likely an individual is to struggle with health problems as an adult.
A sample question is “Did a household member go to prison?”
Adverse childhood experiences include emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect, physical neglect, mother treated violently, household substance abuse, household mental illness, parental separation or divorce and incarcerated household member.
According to Education Law Center, half to two-thirds of all school-aged children experience trauma. While some stress in life is normal, even necessary for development, toxic stress is frequent and prolonged.
The cycle of toxic experiences can last for generations if the traumatic experiences are not addressed. A child who experiences trauma is more likely to have learning and behavioral issues and at a higher risk for early initiation of sexual activity and adolescent pregnancy.
Mental health services are crucial in serving individuals across all economic and age ranges. Some are surprised to learn mental health agencies provide supports within several Putnam County schools.
Child Care Aware of America lists a number of ways to help support children by decreasing stress: Keep routines normal, maintain a peaceful atmosphere, make certain children eat regular and healthy meals, reassure children you will do whatever you can to keep them safe, use age-appropriate language and allow children to make choices.
It’s also important to teach children ways to calm themselves such as dancing to music, deep breathing or art activities. Opportunities to express emotions through movement are supportive as well, such as playing with play dough, drawing, building and dramatic play.
These same techniques can be useful for adolescents and adults. Involving mental health professionals is also an option that has positive outcomes. As individuals have opportunities to process and understand their past, they are better equipped to make positive change in their future.
To locate the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) questionnaire, go to a search engine and type “ACEs Questionnaire.”
Mental Health America of Putnam County is a local resource available to connect individuals with useful resources. To find out more, go to mhaopc.org or call (765) 653-3310.
“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” – Lucius Mestrius Plutarch