Understanding Stress & Trauma

Trauma is an emotional response to an intense event that threatens or causes harm. It is often the result of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds one's ability to cope with or accept the emotions involved with that experience.

An event that a person cannot control, or in which there is a perceived lack of control, can cause trauma. Trauma victims will often have thoughts of “what if” or “if only” related to the event(s), in order to gain some level of control by re-imagining.

Trauma may result from a single distressing experience, or from recurring events of being overwhelmed. It can be precipitated over weeks, years, or even decades, as the person struggles to cope with the immediate circumstances, eventually leading to serious, long-term negative consequences.

Our students are shouldering immense impacts of trauma, and may not be able to articulate it because of their age or social stigmas attached to trauma.  Traumatic environments highlight and perpetuate collective trauma―such as implicit bias or racism―and can affect young people’s ability to learn, make responsible decisions, or maintain healthy relationships.

Trauma is not the end of our story; with intentional, healing-centered efforts and knowledge, we can manage it. Now is the time to cultivate safe and welcoming environments in class as well as healthy interactions with colleagues and students so that school does not trigger persistent traumatic stress.

We invite you to explore the warning signs of trauma for different age groups, as well as tools for engaging people experiencing grief, and ways to build strength and capacity in students and yourself.