National Mental Health & Trauma Awareness Month
May marks National Mental Health Awareness Month and National Trauma Awareness Month. This month I reflect on my previous and current work with trauma and mental health. I joined ICOY as a Trauma Specialist focusing on IDHS programs. I provide technical support and trauma informed trainings to youth service providers and staff throughout the state of Illinois. Additionally, I spearhead a large project called the Capacity-Building Assessment of Trauma-Informed Care for Organizations (CBAT-O). This assessment is designed to gauge an agency’s ability to provide trauma informed services.
City Year Chicago
After I graduated college, I began my journey with mental health and trauma work. I was an AmeriCorps Student Success Coach with City Year Chicago, a national service program that serves youth enrolled in Chicago Public Schools. The organization supports their development and growth in becoming successful students, citizens, and leaders in their communities. Specifically, I worked with 9th grade students. We focused on developing a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum for their first year in high school.
Through this experience, I realized that our youth carry a lot of responsibilities. In addition, they unfortunately carry trauma which impacts their schoolwork and overall well-being. Often, students were disciplined or called out for disruptive behavior. However, it was important to me to understand the WHY behind their behavior, attitudes, and actions. Simply taking 5 minutes of my day to check in on my students made an impact in their lives. They felt heard, seen, and validated for their emotions, and instead of “acting out” they learned to voice their concerns and emotions in a productive manner.
As my year of service with City Year was coming to an end, I reflected on the impact that SEL had on students. I noticed that students who felt more comfortable with their educators and administrators displayed motivation to learn, participate, and build strong relationships with mentors and peers. In addition, I realized that schools need to provide a restorative and healing environment for youth who have experienced trauma. However, this requires a large amount of time and investment.
Trauma Specialist at ICOY
As a Trauma Specialist with ICOY, I am passionate about the work we engage in. Every day looks different, but I know that day in and day out I am contributing to the work that lies ahead of us. Mental health and trauma will always be part of our lives, whether we experience it directly, or hear about it through family and colleagues, trauma impacts us all. As we continue to raise mental health awareness, I ask that you take a moment to express your gratitude to your loved ones, to your colleagues, and to yourself. Take some time to understand and learn from each other. Finally, stay curious and open to new experiences and most importantly…be kind. I feel grateful to be part of this team and empowered to learn more and contribute to this work.
ICOY Staff Contributions
Written by ICOY Specialist Gabriela Zamora. Editing contributions by ICOY CEO Andrea Durbin, Assistant Executive Director Sarah Daniels, and Communications & Marketing Manager Melissa Franada. Find more information on the ICOY Staff.