Recently, in Tallahassee, FL there was a conference entitled Instilling Hope and it was attended by over 300 participants. Instilling Hope was about how to become informed about trauma, more specifically, be trauma informed. Participants from the Department of Children and Families, hospice, the faith community, addictions, and law enforcement to name a few received valuable information to take back to their places of business to begin educating others. Trauma informed care is not a new phenomenon yet; more attention has been given to it because of the circumstances in which we live. It is crucial to be able to understand what trauma informed care is, in order to deal with those the community comes in contact with on a daily basis. As an advocate, a social worker, an addictions counselor, a law enforcement officer, or anyone who works with a vulnerable or at risk population, trauma informed care is essential to effective interaction and provision of assistance.
Trauma-informed care is an approach to engaging people with histories of trauma that recognizes the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledges the role that trauma has played in their lives.
Trauma can be the result of something that occurred at the infant stage to something experienced as an adult. There could be experiences of physical, sexual or emotional abuse and can occur across generations. The person may feel helpless or hopeless, isolated and confused and this is why it is imperative to become trauma-informed because no one knows when they will come face-to-face with someone who has been affected. The truth of the matter is that everyone in their life has experienced some kind of traumatic event, whether personally, or it was witnessed or just heard about it. The effect may not be the same across the culture, but something may have changed after this experience. The goal is to promote trauma-informed programs, practices and services so that no one is labeled unfairly and put into a category they don’t belong.
As an advocate for victims of crime, it is imperative not to just look at what is presented but what the underlying issues could be. If those who work with victims don’t understand that there could be “more to the story”, they may neglect to get to the root of the problem where real help and healing can occur. It may take some time and patience and understanding of trauma informed care to truly provide for those who need it most. Sometimes if there is no understanding, there may be a rush to judgment or a feeling that he or she is “just another (drug addict, prostitute, victim of domestic violence, etc)”, without looking at what may have or may be occurring in their lives. In order to advocate properly at any level, there must be an emphasis on becoming trauma informed to give true help to the hurting.
The Trauma Informed Care Network in Tallahassee has regular work group meetings with those who work and live in the community and provides training and discussions about this topic to benefit those who need it most. The need is great and many other communities see the need and are moving forward in this journey.