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Understanding trauma: A workshop with Dr. Kristen Mcleod

by | May 24, 2019

Tribute to Chester Bennington of American Rock band Linkin Park where fan wrote RIP Chester in white tribute board

“Trauma is the single most preventable cause of chronic mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, school drop out, self-harm, risk behaviours and criminal activity. Genetics aren’t changeable, but recognition of trauma is.”

Last week, Stella’s Place staff attended a workshop facilitated by Psychologist Dr. Kristen Mcleod, along with other attendees: Yonge Street Mission, Unity Charity, Egale and Eva’s Initiatives.

Dr. Mcleod’s work centres on the strong need for trauma-informed care. She recognizes the importance in understanding how trauma and neglect intersect with mental health and how this can create challenges for support and services provided.

Mcleod holds workshops and training events across Canada to provide trauma-informed approaches to schools, parents, medical and mental health professionals, and organizations like Stella’s Place.

“Understanding trauma leads to efficacy, which leads to hope,” Dr. McLeod opened the workshop by explaining the importance of integrating trauma-informed care into any kind of work or practice: “the more we understand about trauma, the better we can do our job, no matter what that may be.”

Training on trauma when providing mental health support is extremely important, and it is essential for all levels of supporters to be informed, whether that be clinicians, members of the Young Adult Council (YAC), Peer Supporters, and members of the access and development teams.

“Trauma is very prominent in the lives of the folks we work with,” says Miriam, one of Stella’s Place clinicians, “and when 70-80% of young adults have significant trauma that they are bringing into sessions, it is crucial to have this type of training.”

Dr. Mcleod led the participants through different aspects of trauma by dissecting scientific studies, informing about philosophical perspectives and providing real life examples. Different parts of the training stood out to the staff at Stella’s. Dagmar, a member of the development and fundraising team expanded on what stood out to her: “trauma is different for everyone,” she explained, “something that I might brush off might deeply affect someone else.”

As a supporter, it is vital to know your own strengths and weaknesses to offer support, and have knowledge on how to best approach situations. Mara, a member of the Young Adult Council reflected on this, and touched on the importance of “knowing your own boundaries and being okay with them.” Mara has just graduated with her BSW, and was very eager to learn and grateful to have attended the workshop to expand her knowledge of trauma related support.

The workshop was wrapped up with some key statements to take away and to reflect on. “Understanding that trauma is an accepted normality is important,” Dr. Mcleod stresses, “trauma doesn’t heal with more psychologists, doctors and therapists. It heals by making trauma, and a collective understanding of healing, central in our communities.”

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