In collaboration with experts in trauma-informed care, the UKZN School of Education Community Engagement hosted a workshop titled Trauma-Informed Care and Trauma Practicing Organisations.
The event featured members of the Department of Social Development. Presenters included Dr Anissa McNeil, founder and CEO of Education Works Consulting Service; Dr Carl Highshaw, founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Arming Minorities Against Addiction and Disease (AMAAD) Institute; and Ms Jessica Ellis, Executive Director at Centinela Youth Services.
The workshop aimed to provide participants with a better understanding of the depth and impact of trauma on students, their families, community members, and organisations. As a result, not only will academics be better able to connect with students daily, but students and graduates will also be better equipped to interact with communities and organisations.
Ellis explained that inability to process emotions leads to long-term trauma. Built-up emotions that are not dealt with will manifest in diverse ways, including behaviour that is often present among teenagers, which usually leads to discipline issues.
‘People may deal with the same trauma differently. If two children from diverse backgrounds lose a loved one, and one is comforted and given all the support through his or her grieving process (given the opportunity to process the tragedy) whilst the other is left alone, they will exhibit opposite behaviours in the future,’ she added.
McNeil highlighted that dealing with trauma requires that the truth be confronted, whether one is dealing with community, family, individual or organisational trauma.
Highshaw added that it is important to always be truthful in terms of who one is: ‘Individuals, helpers, and community members need to ensure they are authentically who they are in their own skin. People have often been dismissed due to their sexual orientation or gender identity because societal expectations dictate that they behave in a certain manner, or because they choose to pursue a particular career path.’
Trauma-informed care (TIC) should therefore aim to prevent re-traumatisation, incorporate knowledge about trauma in policies, procedures, and practices, recognise the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others in the system, and understand the wide impact of trauma and how to recover from it.
McNeil indicated that, to become a trauma-informed, resilient, and practicing institution, individuals must think the best of one another. Each person should perform a self-assessment (do you like what you see?), look out for the triggers, tantrums, and transformations and call on others.
Professor Angela James, Academic Leader in Community Engagement explained the importance of these type of workshops for the University: ‘Trauma dialogue is imperative. It is essential to everyone’s holistic enhancement, but what’s more important is being equipped with what each individual can do within the trauma structures.’