Lionhearted – When Trauma Goes Viral
Lionhearted: Working together towards a higher standard of trauma-informed care header, self-care issue March 2020Volume 5 • Issue 7 • July 2020

Uplift Family Services is a trauma-informed agency, providing whole person care through resilience-oriented, data-driven, culturally sensitive services. We believe in the power of staff investment, advocacy and collaboration as we partner with individuals, families, and communities to heal from the widespread impact of trauma.

TI Leadership

The SARS-CoV-2 virus has brought a cascading series of alarming threats to hundreds of thousands of people: threats to physical and mental health, family relationships, financial well-being, social support, education, career advancement and more. Over time, these stressors will arrive at the doorsteps of hundreds of millions across the world.

 

Antibodies help in the short run, but those who recover from acute illness may still face chronic medical effects, economic deprivation and social isolation. Children and adults who miss developmental opportunities (psychosocial, educational and vocational) will need to catch up. Some of us will experience persistent post-traumatic effects, both physiological (e.g., on the immune system) and psychosocial. Vaccines aside, this crisis will impact the next generation.

 

The health crisis has also underscored societal inequities in America, including 400 years of racism. Yes, age and pre-existing illness determine risk category, but so does skin color. For example, the Brookings Institution reports that among those age 45-54, Black and Latinx deaths from COVID-19 are at least six times higher than for whites.

 

Institutional racism and COVID-19 are both public health crises, each with a cause invisible to the naked eye and devastation that is all too evident, provided one is willing to look.

 

We have many, many tools to resist trauma and we must use them. They include resilience, kindness, love, emotional support, hard work, material resources, self-care, laughter, faith and hope. Another critical tool, especially in a traumatic event of this magnitude, is trauma-informed leadership.

 

To explore what TI leadership might look like, let’s go back to basics: SAMHSA’s six trauma-informed principles, originally published in 2014 for clinicians and organizations.

Safety

TI leaders promote a sense of safety and do whatever possible to make settings and interactions safe.

Trust & Transparency

TI leaders maintain trust through honesty, consistency, and transparency.

Peer support

This phrase may not translate directly to leadership, but its spirit does: TI leaders recognize the validity of other people’s experience of trauma. TI leaders listen to and value their perspectives.

Collaboration & Mutuality

TI leaders place importance on leveling power differences. They partner with others, relying more on trust than power differentials, and are open to feedback.

Empowerment, Voice & Choice

TI leaders foster the empowerment of those they lead, especially communities that have historically had less power and self-determination.

Cultural, Historic & Gender Issues

TI leaders move past cultural stereotypes and biases. They recognize the potential of traditional cultural connections.

 

Clearly, some influential government leaders have utterly failed to provide TI leadership, a tragedy (and trauma) that calls to the rest of us to step up. Virtually everyone is in a position to provide TI leadership in one capacity or another. To children, neighbors, schoolmates and work colleagues. To friends, acquaintances and strangers alike.

 

Leading with TI brains and TI hearts makes a difference, and every effort counts.