Local educators packed the Memorial Art Gallery’s ballroom Thursday morning to talk about making youth more resilient to trauma.
It’s the latest conversation in an ongoing community discussion about trauma and how it can negatively influence students' success.
Using the results of the Monroe County Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Amy Scheel-Jones, Director of the County’s Office Mental Health, spoke to the sold-out session about self-reported levels of trauma among youth. In the survey, students indicate what’s going on at home, discuss interactions at school and overall share how they measure their self worth.
“For the first time we really have data that shows us that when we as adults are present for kids, we decrease areas that concern us the most,” said Scheel-Jones. Those areas of concern include risky sexual practices, crime and substance use. According to the same county experts, when youth are abused, impoverished or otherwise victim to trauma, they're more likely to engage in that risky behavior.
According to the report, 64 percent of local youth have experienced trauma. That could be poverty, incarceration or abuse, for example. And 40 percent have experienced two or more traumatic experiences.
“What is truly exciting about this event is that we have the opportunity to build upon the existing work already underway in the community,” said Elizabeth Meeker, director of training and practice transformation at Coordinated Care Services, Inc.
“I think for a long time, as a society, it was something that we kind of maybe turned our heads to and now there’s just really recognition that ‘Wow, this happens to people we know, people in our community, our neighbors, our own family’ and if we can pay attention to it and recognize it and name it there’s things we can do,” she continued.
While the conversation was geared towards educators and community members who spend a lot of time with youth, Scheel-Jones says the entire community plays a part. By simply listening to youth and going out of the way to address them and include them, it can increase self-worth and make youth more resilient to negative occurrences, she said.
“Every adult doesn’t have to be everything to every child but if we can help more adults be more things to more children, our health and wellness will change,” said Scheel-Jones
“Even simple things like if you’re in the grocery store and a young person is your cashier, being able to say ‘how are you doing today?’” added Meeker. “You know, recognizing people, seeing young people greeting them being curious about what’s going on in their lives.”
Meeker says this can also set the stage for creating genuine relationships, giving youth a trust adult they can discuss these issues with. While that one adult may not be able to get them out of poverty or solve these larger traumatic issues, they can build the youth's self-worth and knowledge of their options to overall make them more resilient.