We'll serve as a national advocate, resource, and model for applying trauma-informed practices to build resilience and thereby improve the quality of life for tens of millions of people who have experienced trauma.
With the support of a Social Justice Fund grant from Colonial Life and its parent company Unum, Columbia College has established the I-BRTIP to focus on the following goals.
- SAMHSA Approach
I-BRTIP endorses the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) definition for trauma: 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.
I-BRTIP also endorses SAMHSA’s concept of a trauma-informed approach, which is grounded in a set of four assumptions and six key principles. The four assumptions: A program, organization, or system that is trauma-informed:
- realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery;
- recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system;
- responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices, and
- seeks to actively resist re-traumatization.
The SAMHSA’s trauma-informed approach incorporates six key principles:
- Trustworthiness and Transparency
- Peer Support
- Collaboration and Mutuality
- Empowerment, Voice and Choice
- Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues
(SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach prepared by SAMHSA’s Trauma and Justice Strategic Initiative of July 2014)
- Widespread Impact
There is not an area of human life that is untouched by trauma and mental health. Studies by the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) and others confirm that the impact of trauma is a major cause of mental illness and physical illness. Likewise, trauma is a root cause for many children in Department of Juvenile Justice facilities.
Medical practitioners unknowingly respond to mental health and trauma survivors on a daily basis. Medical training includes very little attention to either, aside for a single class session. In higher education and in the workforce, lingering effects of trauma emerge as obstacles to success and worse, as reasons for failure.
Mental health and trauma are under-treated, under-diagnosed, and overrepresented in vulnerable populations of all kinds. The LGBTQIA community, persons of color, and women all carry an extra heavy burden of risk and occurrence of both mental health conditions and trauma. And of course, they are intertwined and exacerbated by the far-reaching and lifelong effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Collectively, intersectionality, and the compounding influence of systemic racism and injustice in conjunction with trauma increases the sense of urgency to diagnose and treat trauma and to expand trauma-informed practices.
We have more detailed research than ever before that trauma alters the development of the brain, leaving people from all of these groups with another risk of social impairment due to developmental lags. We know for instance that on a cellular level, African American women are approximately 10 years older than their chronological age. At the cellular level, they carry the trauma of more than 300 years of racial and economic oppression and discrimination.
- Generational Impact
This centuries-long problem manifests in higher infant and mother mortality rates, as well as lower life expectancies of both men and women of color. This also means there are members of society who cannot live up to their highest potential or contribution. The connection between building resilience through trauma-informed practices and social justice is profound.
Not only do oppressed groups risk trauma and mental health conditions to a higher degree than others, but they also carry the oppression of the past in their DNA. This follows generation after generation. Moreover, the long-term impact of trauma has already increased significantly during COVID-19, particularly among vulnerable populations. As the pandemic continues, the effects on BIPOC, LGBTQIA, and families living in poverty will only worsen.
These are the issues Columbia College is prepared to address with our Institute for Building Resilience through Trauma-Informed Practices (I-BRTIP) as our unique contribution to advancing social justice.
The name of the Institute begins with “Building Resilience,” reflecting a commitment to a strengths-based approach that draws upon insights from the history of resilience, the wealth of cultural assets in the midst of systemic oppression, and practices such as child positive thinking, creating a supportive school environment, building strong relationships between school and family, joining peer groups, building good relationships with neighbors and relatives, and proven strengths-based strategies such as family culture and traditions, affection, positive and open communications, daily routines, defined boundaries, and clear expectations.