SUMMARY: This session was dedicated to the fifth foundational focus: establishing ongoing opportunities for residents to heal their trauma and how the cohort could move into action and the next steps. The previous sessions discussed the five foundational areas of RCCs to build universal capacity for mental wellness and resilience, namely building social connections, just transition, mental health literacy, and foster engagement in practices that promote mental wellness and resilience.
Bob suggested that each participant pick a presencing skill that resonated with them. Presencing skills include: 1. Say “soft” as you breathe in and “breath” as you breathe out, 2. Resourcing, 3. Tracking, 4. Grounding, 5. Six-second breathing, 6. Hand on belly and chest breathing or 7. Any other presencing skill that would help participants center and ground themselves in the present moment.
Bob suggested that while practicing the skill that resonates most, practice purposing by imagining that a major storm seriously impacts their community. What values do you want to live your life by during and after the event? How can you ensure that you live out those values?
Engaging Residents in Ongoing Healing Opportunities
Bob introduced the group to establishing ongoing opportunities for residents to heal by thinking of a time they experienced stress and how they responded or moved past it. RCCs must establish ongoing opportunities for people to heal their trauma.
The climate crisis will cause millions of people to experience psychological and emotional distress. These feelings will not necessarily be symptoms of psychopathology but rather normal reactions to the climate crisis. Helping people engage in the other four foundational areas promotes healing oneself.
However, there will be people who remain traumatized and need help to heal. Healing can be difficult because traumatized people often feel hopeless and lacking control over their lives. Sometimes the coping mechanisms that were originally adopted can go awry and be maladaptive.
RCCs must establish healing activities. Per Judith Herman, healing involves three stages: safety, acknowledgement, and reconnection. These stages recognize that meaningful social connections and key resources are essential for healing.
When people feel safe and supported, they can acknowledge their experience, share it, and release their trauma, promoting reconnection with themselves and others. Pro-social activities (e.g. helping others, helping nature) can be a powerful way to do that.
Reverend Paul Abernathy, CEO of Neighborhood Resilience Project
The Neighborhood Resilience Project has examined the issue of community trauma, what to do about it, and what creates a trauma informed community development. The goal of community development is community wellbeing. Community members connect, take collective action, and generate solutions to agreed upon problems.
There must be a process of problematizing issues- moving issues into problems that can be addressed, encourages cohesion and common understanding, and collective action. We must presume that collective action is taken at the grassroots level action and how the impacts of policy are relative to different marginalized communities. Well-being often evolves from collective grassroots level action. In addition to creating these opportunities, community development considers if people are healthy enough to sustain these opportunities as marginalized communities are disproportionately impacted by crises and systematic oppression. Thereby, the process assesses individual, family, and community risk factors such as transgenerational/historical trauma (see Slides for more examples) and how family and community protective factors can be emphasized.
Historical and transgenerational trauma can affect communities by creating a shared experience of suffering and layers of trauma. Community culture is then informed by trauma and the foundation of the community’s worldview. Rev. Abernathy suggests that leaders balance problematizing and empowering through local facilitators that are culturally-grounded and fosters ownership of the information and following discussions. (Delivering information and facilitating conversations are key here.)
Trauma Informed Community Development (TICD) is a framework that establishes and promotes resilient, healing, and healthy communities so people can be healthy enough to sustain opportunities and realize their potential. Community resilience is the measure of sustained ability to respond and recover from adverse experiences. The foundations for community resilience include people, systems thinking, adaptability, transformability, sustainability, an courage.
The Neighborhood Resilience Project generally starts with training local community leaders in the “probing phase” where leaders talk with neighbors to connect with people who have recognizable resilience and can be champions of broader community-based interventions. Neighborhood Resilience Project designed a healthy assessment system called “I am Healthy” which assesses how health, wellbeing, and resilience are integrated in communities and how a person's health, wellbeing, and resilience impacts the health, wellbeing, and resilience of their community. This assessment can be distributed via an app.
Other Age and Culturally Appropriate Ways Residents can Heal Trauma
Bob emphasized that it is important to talk with community members about accessible healing practices. He highlighted somatic healing methods, mindfulness, spiritual healing, expressive therapies, nature-based, and rituals in communities. Two resources as examples include: The Visible Hands Collaborative Community Healing Network is based on work in Brazil that helps low-income people gather in healing circles, and The National Compadres Network Healing Circles are online, global circles.
Recap & Getting Started
We must address multiple systematic factors to prevent and heal climate distresses and trauma. This requires a public health approach, a population-level approach that prioritizes preventing problems before they occur and focusing on strengthening protective factors. A Resilience Coordinating Coalition (RCC) is a well-coordinated decentralized approach of community leaders and other stakeholders. The five foundational areas required to build an RCC include building social connections, just transition, mental health literacy, and fostering engagement and ongoing opportunities in practices that promote mental wellness and resilience.
Too often, we don’t begin because we can’t figure out what is next. Bob observes that we don’t need to know all the steps or their outcome. Knowing the first step, seeing how it feels, and leading from there is the most important place to begin. Participants were asked to write 1-2 sentences of their role they can play in building collective resilience and sharing with others in the group. If we want to protect and regenerate the planet and ourselves, we must think systemically and respond holistically. This requires getting out of our personal, professional, and organizational siloes and organizational collaborations.
Always remember, if trauma can be passed down through generations, so then can population-level prevention, healing, and transformational resilience.