Resources to Help Students Cope with Trauma

By John Schlitt, President, School-Based Health Alliance

man-person-school-headA turbulent summer of violence and injustice has ushered in the 2016 back-to-school season. Much of what children and adolescents are experiencing via the media—and in their own communities—is potentially traumatic, and, left unaddressed, could have serious consequences to their wellbeing.

More and more, the public health world is recognizing the cost of adverse-childhood experiences (ACEs) and the healing potential of trauma-informed care. We’ve had these concepts on our minds for quite some time: Leisa Irwin, Executive Director of Paladin Career and Technical High School in Minnesota, opened our 2015 convention by talking about her experiences in a school that embraced a trauma-informed approach.

This year, our conference was bookended with presentations by Dr. Shawn Ginwright, author of Hope and Healing in Urban Education, and Dr. Ken Ginsburg, a pediatrician at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Ginwright offered a compelling view of hope as a unique power to heal the damage of racial injustice, poverty, and violence, and Dr. Ginsburg asserted that young people can—and will—thrive when the adults in their lives believe in them unconditionally and hold them to high expectations.

We imagine that as school-based health professionals, you’re grappling with how to have difficult—but necessary—conversations about race, structural oppression, and inequity with your young patients. We reached out to our partners to assemble resources to lend you a hand in this endeavor:

Our young people need adults in their lives to value them, to validate the harm caused by racism, to acknowledge the assault of negative messages about youth of color, and to allow them to give voice to their experiences in a safe, constructive, and therapeutic setting. We hope these tools inspire you to act.

Are there any resources or strategies you’ve found useful to tackle sensitive subjects with students (and begin to repair harm) as they return to school? Please share them in the comments below.

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