One of the 16 priorities of the South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) is ‘’Encourage all professionals and organisations to become trauma-informed, to an approved standard for South Yorkshire’’. This priority is really important to me as my background before moving to the VRU was working in Domestic Abuse and Restorative Justice and I have seen first-hand the impact of trauma on children, young people, families, and communities.
Trauma can be a sudden and unexpected event experienced as isolated incidents such as road traffic accidents or violent incidents. This can happen at any time in childhood or adulthood.
Trauma can also be complex, with traumatic events being repeated, interpersonal, and often (although not always) occurring in our childhoods. This can include forms of childhood abuse which are chronic and cumulative, such as childhood sexual abuse, childhood physical abuse, witnessing domestic abuse, and neglect.
We know that trauma in childhood, called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), and trauma in adult life can have a detrimental impact on an individual’s physical and emotional wellbeing, and that can influence the decisions we make in life.
The more people and services are aware of the impact of trauma and start to incorporate a trauma-informed approach into their work, the more we can develop trusting relationships between services and their staff, and eventually make a positive impact in the lives of the people we serve.
Trauma-informed approach and practice acknowledges the need to see beyond someone’s presenting behaviours and ask, ‘what does this person need?’, rather than ‘what is wrong with this person?’
It is about moving away from thinking ‘what is your problem?’, to asking ‘what is your story?’ and ‘what are your strengths?’
The VRU is committed to working with all organisations to raise awareness of trauma and ACEs and encourage improved ways of working so that we can better support the people we serve. To support professionals and organisations to become trauma-informed, the VRU commissions Victim Support to deliver a free three-hour online training course, which is open to anyone in South Yorkshire. The course looks at how you can incorporate a trauma-informed approach to working by considering ACEs and trauma.
We must acknowledge that we won’t eradicate the impact of trauma by starting to take a trauma-informed approach, but it will make a difference.
I have recently completed a diploma to become a practitioner in mental health and trauma within schools. Throughout the training we were reminded of how the simplest, small change to our approach to working with someone who had suffered trauma could have a huge, lasting impact. I think that is important to remember as we go about our day-to-day lives, and I find there is no better story to highlight this than the story below.
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking up and gently throwing things into the ocean.
Approaching the boy, he asked, “Young man, what are you doing?”
“Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die,” the boy replied.
The man laughed to himself and said, “Do you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make any difference.”
After listening politely, the boy bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the surf. Then, the boy smiled at the man and said, “I made a difference to that one.”
For more information about the free training please click here.