Transforming Trauma: Meeting the challenges facing youth

Nate Monson is executive director of Iowa Safe Schools. -promoted by Laura Belin

Collective trauma refers to the impact of a terrible experience that affects a group of people. Collective trauma is what we all are experiencing this year.

Our country has experienced collective trauma in the past but at no time have we had a pandemic, racial injustice, the derecho, a very divisive election, and an economic crisis larger than the Great Recession all at the same time.

The impact of this collective trauma will be felt for years. According to a recent survey by the CDC, 26 percent of youth between the ages of 18 and 24 seriously considered suicide during the pandemic. Many mental health experts are saying we will not know the full impact of all of this for five to ten years.

For myself personally, I have never felt more anxious and depressed. Watching the news feels painful with everything happening. Parents, educators, and youth-serving professionals are all trying their best with limited guidance and support from agencies that they would typically rely on. With entities going back and forth on whether it is safe to do activities in person, it is incredibly difficult for schools and communities to plan for even a month out. 

On top of our collective trauma, we are frozen in what to do next. This situation could have dangerous consequences for the well-being of youth in our state.

What makes all of this even more frustrating is the fact there are no good answers to any of the challenges we are facing. If everything is entirely virtual, that means many parts of our society are unable to access those resources or educational opportunities. If everything is in person or even hybrid, the virus will continue to spread. No answer is perfect, but we can at least work collectively to learn ideas on what we can do with what we know that week.

Iowa Safe Schools is one of the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ organizations and works to create more inclusive schools and communities. This work has included school climate and culture endeavors such as professional development for educators and supporting LGBTQ student organizations.

Because of this collective trauma and the need to create a space for educators, parents, and youth-serving professionals to learn more about the issues impacting students as well as hear from experts, Iowa Safe Schools is hosting our first ever Transforming Trauma Summit on September 24. This virtual summit will be an excellent opportunity for professionals to ask tough questions and have a space to not feel alone in struggling with all of these challenges.

We are thrilled with the incredible speaker lineup for the summit. Speakers include Rev. Dr. Jennifer Harvey who is a best selling anti-racist scholar, Dr. Jen Ulie-Wells (Executive Director for Please Pass the Love), Mary Jane Cobb (Executive Director for the Iowa State Education Association), Mike Beranek (President of the Iowa State Education Association), and Joby Holcomb (Licensed Mental Health Counselor), to name a few.

All the workshop sessions will be recorded, which means that participants can rewatch the workshops afterwards and take information back to their schools to improve the lives of their students.

We want to provide this space for educators, parents, and youth-serving professionals to learn from each other, have a connection, be able to vent, and most importantly hear from experts who have the best information possible at this point in time. We will get through this together.

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