I was reading an article this afternoon about the increased level of violence in the city of Chicago and how it is affecting many of the school children there. Earlier this week, a 9 year-old was shot multiple times and killed in what police say seems to have been an intentional act. Representatives for Chicago school teachers were pointing out the lack of crisis counselors that the city has on staff to support children who have experienced violent events. They put the ratio at 4 crisis counselors for 400,00 school children. This lack of resources makes it difficult for children to get the needed support and counseling after a traumatic event.
Having worked at a residential facility for many years serving individuals who had experienced significant trauma, I can identify with the sadness and frustration the teachers must be feeling as they try to support the children in their classes. I wonder what type of training, if any, these teachers have received in supporting people dealing with trauma. I also think about the ways that the teachers themselves are likely being traumatized from the stories and experiences of the children they serve. The entire situation makes me sad.
In response to the lack of available counselors, one person interviewed in the article states that, “We’ll never have enough official counselors. The approach has to be any staff person is trauma informed.” One of the things that I often talk about with people in my workshops is how I think we need standard precautions for trauma just like we have for infection control. Where our staff have a general understanding that any of their clients, even if they don’t have a documented trauma history, could be dealing with past trauma, and that they consider that whenever they interact with any of the people they serve. Additionally, that staff are trained to respond to the verbal and physical behaviors of others in ways that keep people safe without traumatizing or re-traumatizing anyone involved.
In the Mandt System, we teach a chapter on trauma informed care to help people become better at supporting the people they serve who are dealing with past or present trauma. Ultimately, they do this best by being safe people for there clients to be around and by creating safe places for their clients to live, learn, work, and play.
Doug ZehrVogt, Mandt Faculty