It has become impossible to ignore the impact that exposure to emotional or psychological trauma has on members of our society, in particular, our children. We see these effects daily in our schools and communities.

Andy Campbell

A deeper understanding of this issue makes it clear that without intervention, long-term health and wellness will be a problem for those exposed.

So what is trauma? One commonly referenced definition of trauma comes from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) which states “Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being” (SAMHSA, 2012). How often does this occur? The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study (1995-1997) revealed that nearly 68% of adult respondents had at least one of the identified “adverse childhood experiences” or traumas, and has led to many more studies on the topic yielding similar results.

What does this mean for those exposed? The impact of childhood exposure to trauma has far-reaching implications. As the number of traumatic events experienced during childhood increases, risk factors for health problems in adulthood also increase. These health factors include anxiety and depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, suicidality, heart and liver diseases, uncontrollable anger, and family, financial, and job problems (SAMHSA, 2011). This is compounded by the fact that ACEs typically do not occur in isolation, which greatly increases the negative effect these experiences have on long range health and mental health outcomes (Aces Too High News, 2017).

So what do you mean when you talk about Trauma-Informed Care? With an understanding of what trauma is, its prevalence, and how it impacts the person subjected to it, Trauma-Informed Care seeks to create a framework designed to do the following: realize the widespread impact of trauma and potential paths for recovery, recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in individuals, respond by integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices, and actively resist re-traumatization of those exposed (SAMHSA, 2012). These principle ideas can be applied in a variety of settings including the mental health field, social services, schools and businesses, and when applied, can have a significant positive impact on those effected by trauma leading to happier, healthier, and more productive lives.

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Author Andy Campbell-Ed. S is the Principal of Summit Ridge Academy, LSR7 School District. He is a guest author for the Lee’s Summit Health Education Advisory Board, a Mayor-appointed, volunteer board that promotes and advocates community health by assessing health issues, educating the public and government agencies, developing plans to address health issues, encouraging partnerships and evaluating the outcomes.