Life is traumatic; STAR teaches residents how to cope

Everyone experiences trauma, according to STAR trainer Leslie Frye.  This month, residents in Hesston and Harvey County learned how to recognize signs of trauma and how to respond to suffering in a productive way.

“When we see confusing behavior or bad behavior or socially unhealthy behavior, it’s not just people being jerks,” she said.

STAR – Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience – provides a foundation to understand the far reaching implications of trauma on individuals and society.

“I’ve been so excited to share this with the wider community and people that are in caring professions or people that are sometimes labeled ‘problem people.’ Instead of going, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ it becomes, ‘What happened to you that would invoke this behavior?’” said Frye.

Frye added that compassion does not mean a lack of accountability for adults or children with inappropriate behavior.

“If we know what is causing it, it is easer to work from the bottom up, instead of imposing punishments,” she said.

Frye said, when dealing with trauma, the brain responds like it would to a physical injury. However, to the outside world, such injuries are not as obvious as physical wounds.

“Not having other needs met can have these same reactions, but we can’t see them just by looking at a person. There are obvious traumas we can see, after a hurricane or tornado. But it’s like someone in inadequate housing, whose basement is flooded all the time,” she said.

Trauma, like fingerprints, is unique to individuals. What may be perceived as a traumatic event for one person may not have a profound effect on another.

“What it comes down to is, if you are overwhelmed and feel out of control and stuck. We all have experience like that,” she said.

Shana Leck, a paraprofessional at Inman’s preschool and a foster parent said attending the training for a second time was a way to not only refresh the content, but apply it to new life experiences.

“One of the keys is how much trauma can physically affect people and the cycle of trauma doesn’t happen in any particular order.  Those two things are really good reminders,” she said.

James Wilson, of SafeHope, Harvey County’s homeless shelter, said nearly all of the 264 individuals served by the shelter in 2018 had experienced trauma.

“We want to help people find ways to heal from their trauma and help our staff not take on that trauma as a secondary form,” he said.

Wilson said the course reaffirmed the shelter’s approach to trauma.

“It’s not just a physical thing. It can be mental, spiritual, social. We want to help people deal with those specific types of trauma,” he said.

Frye said helping people, who are suffering from trauma, can be as simple as just being aware of one’s community and neighbors.

“A lot of this is paying attention and staying connected, rather than running away or blowing people off,” she said.

Acknowledging people’s actions and expressing concern is an easy technique for broaching a difficult subject.

“Lean into it. It is often helpful to share an observation before asking an open-ended question. I’ve noticed X a lot, lately and I’m wondering what’s going on,” she said.

After asking, simply listening and acknowledging a person’s feelings and struggles can be a powerful step in addressing trauma.

“Offer grace to everyone, including yourself, and be kind to everyone, including yourself. Pay attention. Stay connected. Be nice,” she said.

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