The author of this article, Leana Wen, conducted a discussion with a group of young Baltimore children asking for their biggest concerns, all of which included traumatic situations which can result in mental health issues. Traumatic situations can involve seeing family or loved ones die due to gun violence or drug abuse, dealing with physical and verbal abuse, and living in poverty. Scientific research has shown that children suffer the most from these traumatic events. This trauma can play a significant role in negative situations occurring later in these children’s lives. The Baltimore City Health Department has recognized that the effects of trauma in lives of the citizens of Baltimore, particularly its children, needs to be addressed.
The Health Department, along with its partners, have created four principles to address this issue. The first principle is that children are seen not as “at risk,” but rather “at hope.” The second calls for recognizing our city as a place of recovery and resilience. The third calls for understanding how history has played a part in the amount of trauma that citizens are faced with today. The fourth asks for a break in the stigma of mental health issues and to rely on our scientific findings—that trauma cycles can be broken, especially with early intervention.
Several grants are now being used to address and alleviate traumatic situations occurring in Baltimore. With the help of a 2.3 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Baltimore City Public Schools will be able to devote much more attention to mental healthcare. This includes hiring a full-time clinician at 13 schools and providing training to all staff about recognizing and preventing trauma.
I found this article interesting because it seems to be addressing something that teachers and school staff, I feel, have known about for years. Many teacher had students who disrupt class or struggle with paying attention. In many cases, teachers are wondering in the back of their minds, “Where did this student sleep last night?” or “Who is caring for this student while his or parent is in jail?” If we think back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, basic needs are the most important, closely followed by the needs of security. If students are coming into school without these basic needs being met, how can we expect them to learn? Speaking from my own personal experience, I had a student who I had discovered slept on the floor without a pillow for many nights. How could I blame him for being too tired in math class the next day? Many teachers go above and beyond to help make the classroom environment as mentally healthy and welcoming as possible for their students, but they cannot alleviate these problems alone. They need support that will also address community needs. They also need more support in what to do when they have students in their classrooms who are in need of mental health support.
Congressman Elijah Cummings is quoted saying, “It is our duty to ensure that where our children live does not determine whether they live.” This relates to the idea that all children deserve a good education. They deserve to be in a school where they are valued and given opportunities to become their most successful selves. Aligning with this quote is the first principle that students need to be seen as “at hope” rather than “at risk.” Currently in education, there is a great demand for change in mindset. I think this is a great summary of what those changes are asking. We cannot just label as child as “at risk” and consider it normal that they face these traumatic situations in their everyday experiences. We need to work as a city to see that these students become “at hope”—that they aren’t seen as problems that need to be dealt with or ignored, but promises we need to keep.
I have included the link to the Baltimore Sun article below.