Earlier this year during Mental Health Month, advocates across America raised awareness of the close connection between mental and physical health.
In Southeast Louisiana, and particularly New Orleans, we know one of the greatest threats to the well-being of our bodies and minds is exposure to trauma. Community violence, natural disasters, and domestic violence are all too frequent realities in the lives of many, especially our children.
According to research from the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies, New Orleans youth show symptoms of PTSD at a rate nearly four times the national average. Trauma confronts children in New Orleans in different ways - chronic bullying, abuse in the home, or violence in the community, to name a few.
Studies have shown that frequent exposure to trauma effects healthy child brain development, particularly in areas responsible for memory and emotions. This can result in lifelong learning difficulties and problem behaviors in the classroom.
In short, childhood trauma is a serious public health concern for New Orleans.
How can we provide effective mental and behavioral health supports that address the harmful effects of trauma in children? The classroom is one place to start.
The New Orleans Trauma-Informed Learning Collaborative (TISLC), a United Way funded partner, is working to infuse trauma-informed care into five New Orleans public schools. The collaborative provides ongoing professional development, training, and technical assistance to help schools effectively identify and manage the mental and behavioral health needs of students impacted by trauma, increase school safety, and prevent future trauma through evidence-based services.
The good news is, our community is becoming aware of the impacts of childhood trauma and making moves to address them.
“The Children of Central City,” a powerful reporting series and documentary by NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune, recently brought public attention to the issue. On the local government level, Mayor Latoya Cantrell led a push in 2018 that resulted two city resolutions calling on the Orleans Parish School Board to adopt trauma-informed practices and delegating the Children and Youth Planning Board to identify and develop strategies for the City of New Orleans to become more trauma-informed.
Our United Way is proud to support the New Orleans Trauma-Informed Schools Learning Collaborative and be a member of the CYPB Trauma-Informed Task Force. Together with community partners, business leaders, and local officials, we can create a more trauma-informed community that helps children thrive.
Vice President of Community Impact, Health and Fund Distribution
United Way of Southeast Louisiana