Brittany Greenbaum, University Counseling Service
Sara Sanders, School of Social Work
Kelly Clougher, University Counseling Service
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Prior to COVID-19, it was estimated that 70% of people in the United States will experience a trauma in their lifetime. One in ten children nationally have experienced three or more traumas and in Iowa, 55% of adults reported experiencing at least one adverse childhood experiences (Central Iowa ACEs Steering Committee, 2012). This suggests that a large percentage of students at the University of Iowa will have experienced a trauma prior to attending.
Given that COVID-19 is a global pandemic that has resulted in millions becoming sick, hundreds of thousands dying, societal shutdowns, increased job losses, economic depressions, and educational format changes, it is likely that many will experience this time period as traumatic. Add to this trauma caused by the current civil unrest and sociopolitical climate. For example, violence towards Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities, xenophobia towards Asian communities, anti-immigration rhetoric, and removal of laws protecting people who identify as LGBTQ from discrimination, and the list could go on. Our sense of safety, our identities, and outlooks on the world are dramatically being called into question.
There is no person unaffected by the traumatic events of the world today and therefore it is imperative to create a trauma-informed community so that we can not only survive this experience but improve ourselves and institution. Thus, we are advocating that the University of Iowa adopt a Trauma-Informed and Resilience-Oriented approach.
A trauma-informed approach in an academic setting is, “one in which all students feel safe, welcomed, and supported and where addressing trauma’s impact on learning on a school-wide basis is at the center of its educational mission. An ongoing-inquiry-based process allows for the necessary teamwork, coordination, creativity and sharing of responsibility for all students” (Cole, Eisner, Greggory & Ristuccia, 2013).
“In schools, trauma-informed education, also referred to as trauma-informed practices, requires administrative buy-in and support, trauma-sensitive classroom practices, positive and restorative responses to behavior, policy and procedure changes, teacher and staff professional development, and strong cross-system collaboration among school staff and mental health professionals (Oehlberg, 2008). Such an approach has been suggested as a means of improving student performance and retention as well as school climate (Oehlberg, 2008)” https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.3102/0091732X18821123
Trauma-informed care means to “highlight adaptation over symptoms and resilience over pathology” (Elliot, Bjelajac, Fallot, Markoff & Reed, 2005). There are five core values of trauma-informed care:
- Safety: Physical and emotional
- Choice and control
Implemented in a school setting means to provide knowledge about the nature and impact of trauma to all faculty and staff at the university, to encourage a shift in perspective about student behaviors, moving away from “what is wrong with you?” to “what is happening with you” and providing self-care and trauma support for educators.
Research has shown that places that adopt a trauma-informed approach have increased retention and engagement, as well as reduced disparities in access to resources for people who were younger, homeless, and had less formal education (Quantitative Benefits of Trauma-Informed Care, Stephanie Hepburn, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, 2017).