On September 14, the Health Care Council of Chicago (HC3) partnered with CommunityHealth, a member organization, to convene local and national leaders to discuss some challenges and opportunities to cultivating resiliency and trauma-informed best practices for individuals at work, at home, and our greater communities. The event was part of CommunityHealth’s 2021 All in Chicago Series (September 1 - September 30, 2021).
Remarks Meghan Phillipp, Executive Director, HC3
Mark Ishaug, CEO, Thresholds
Denean Pillar-Jackson, Executive Director, Chicago Resiliency Network
Gail Smith, MS, LMFT, Behavioral Clinical Account Manager Team Lead, Cigna
Colleen Cichetti,PhD, Executive Director, Center for Childhood Resilience, Lurie Children’s
Kym Laube, Executive Director, HUGs Inc.
PANELISTS DISCUSS RESILIENCY AND TRAUMA-INFORMED PRACTICES DURING COVID-19 | Health News Illinois, September 20, 2021 | Link to Article
Watch the Recap | Link to Video
Sixty-one percent of people in the U.S. experience loneliness and during the pandemic only 30 of full-time workers have exhibited high levels of resiliency – the ability to recover from challenges. We have not yet entered a post-pandemic world, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, in addition to other pandemics: racial injustice, violence, climate change, and so on.
Defining Trauma (Colleen Cichetti, PhD)
Colleen has been working to define trauma for 15-20 years, and it is not a simple definition that continues to be strewn around very loosely in these current times. Work on trauma in Illinois has been focused on the idea of the three E’s:
· Event – something disruptive that a person has been exposed to at a single time or ongoing
· Experience – how someone experiences that event, dependent on age or other factors
· Effect – how the event impacts a person throughout their life related to relationships and how they function
Illinois ACE’s (adverse childhood experiences) Response Collaborative managed by Health & Medicine was started by looking at childhood experiences that happen in family settings, but there are many other types of trauma (e.g., exposure to violence in the community, bullying in school, being treated differently based on race). The group is starting to think about trauma based on communities and how one is experiencing what’s happening in the world. With trauma, the more exposure one has, the stronger the impact it can have.
Defining Resiliency (Colleen Cichetti, PhD)
In regard to resilience, how do we manage through the crisis that that happen around us? Resiliency is a muscle that is grown and supported by relationships with others. So how do we develop a community where people can manage trauma themselves by reaching out when they need support?
Back to school (Colleen Cichetti, PhD)
Educators and parents alike are expressing concern over the emotional well-being of children. Trauma is not just stress, and yet for some families, they experience ongoing toxic stress due to food insecurity, domestic violence, and substance abuse. A smaller subgroup, where there is actual trauma is when they have experienced something like the loss of a loved one.
Some kids will be able to push through this time and be okay despite some of the ongoing stressors, because kids are naturally resilient. But others will need more and should be more connected to services in their schools and communities, and they need to work in tandem with the parents. And they will need to have resources in place to meet the needs of everyone accordingly.
Chicago Resiliency Network (Denean Pillar-Jackson)
The CRN (Chicago Resiliency Network) is an initiative of the Corporate Coalition of Chicago. The CRN is cohort model to train corporations on best practices to help them create healing-centered workplaces. The organization works with corporations to help employers help their employees understand trauma and become more resilient. With children, there are programs in place to help navigate these issues, but adults are experiencing the similar types of trauma, as well as toxic stress which can impact their productivity and employment length. Right now, there is a record number of job openings and layoffs are low – employers are looking for ways to support their employees and the CRN is a resource. Top corporations in the city develop best practices, and there is a collaborative experience of training, learning, and sharing as they explore what this means for their organizations. Thinking about qualitative measures, and how to measure the success of the program, they are still exploring what metrics are relevant, for example: How many members of the team are being trained and how many organizations are creating action plans? The goal is to work to address trauma and resilience as it pertains to employees.
Addressing Trauma and Resilience in communities (Kym Laube)
HUGs has a strong focus on individuals, families, and communities. They work with individuals to give them the skills and tools to be agents of change in their communities. At a community level: how do we create protective factors? How do we help people feel connected to their community? How do we get back to community parenting models? How do we recognize that we really are responsible for our neighborhood children and community youth? They go into schools to do workshops on resilience for the kids, but the teachers and parents say that it was what they needed to hear as well. The loneliness, mental health, and SUD that have been induced by the COVID-19 pandemic have created a huge loss of life and impacted and rocked local communities, but it wasn’t talked about because of the stigma.
Loneliness and Isolation (Gail Smith, MS, LMFT)
Loneliness has a lot to do with health and wellbeing. A recent Cigna study showed that two in five people were experiencing loneliness; a repeat of study showed it went up to three in five and it might even be higher now. They found that younger people are lonelier. Loneliness has same effect on our body as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Resilience is the antithesis to stress and trauma. The resilience study showed 30 percent of full-time workers are highly resilient – so a large portion of the population can benefit from working on resiliency. Also, full-time workers are the most resilient group, so it is a lot more challenging for people who have been laid off or are not currently working. Having a best friend at work can increase resiliency, and also offer exposure to diversity so that we are connected to many different communities. There are also better benefits to physical and mental health, as well as family support. The Great Resignation Study showed that over half of the people will still likely leave their jobs this year (due to a lot of the things already mentioned) – so companies want to look at ways to retain their employees.
Mark: Meaningful engagement at work has a huge impact on mental health and recovery, which is Interesting that in the study, children, and young adults experienced loneliness more than would be expected.
Colleen: The mental health field doesn’t focus enough on loneliness. Being in the same space with someone doesn’t mean that you are not lonely, and it is important to teach these skills to help children connect with their peers and adults. Trauma responsive strategies in schools, address three basic areas that come out in all studies:
1. Safety and feeling safe in any given setting
2. Building strong relationships
3. A sense of having skills, so they can be resilient and bounce back
This is important for adults as well. How do we measure this and help people find companies where they can thrive? It is time to move from general constructs to asking, “what does that mean”? How can employers build that safe space?
Mark: What is being done to address this great resignation challenge?
Kym: For many people, there was this sense of identity and importance to being busy and people have had to reevaluate this. Using community coalitions and strategic prevention framework is an important tool that is available to us.
Denean: Denean is excited to work with top corporations to think differently and act collectively. Employers are thinking in different ways to build community and support workforce and their teams. This is what CRN is helping employers figure out. A few years ago, employers wouldn’t have been interested in this conversation, so it’s good to see that the value has changed.
Gail: We are all trying to make sense of recent challenges, doing that, and finding meaning to make sense of things can help build resiliency. Leadership should know that employee force is looking to you for more resources.
Kym: We need to have grace with others and with ourselves. Leaders lead and that’s good, but then there’s aftermath and fallout. Be gentle with yourself and others and know you are enough. You are essential.
Colleen: Agree we need to have grace, connections, and partnerships. If we have learned something about this in the past year, we have removed the stigma of mental health, and we need to maintain that. We also need to think about how to realign resources and create communities that are supportive and think about how to create a safe, loving, healing space where we can all thrive.