An In-depth look at our trauma informed district

In an effort to battle increasing rates of mental health issues facing students at the Scottsbluff Middle and High Schools, the district has added two mental health counselors in the past three years.
The school district has also begun training employees in trauma sensitivity to assist them in dealing with the needs of young people who have experienced trauma.
As more studies show the impact of trauma upon a student’s ability to learn, teachers are implementing new methods to assist in educating these young people.
Trauma, depending on it severity, always leaves an impact on those who experience it. The trauma can have numerous negative long-term effects.
Licensed mental health counselors at Scottsbluff High School and Bluffs Middle School, along with school counselors and the administration, are striving to make the school trauma-informed and respond to student needs.
Terry-Fisher Edens is one of the school’s two, mental health counselors.
“We’re working on becoming a trauma informed,” Fisher-Edens said. “ Part of it is being more aware of how not to activate a person’s trauma.”
Trauma is an emotional response to an event that was dangerous, scary, or shocking to the victim.
There are many responses victims show in the aftermath of a traumatic event. Responses vary in severity depending on the person who is experiencing the trauma.
Some reactions occur right after the traumatic event. The reactions could also occur days or months later as well. Some of these responses could include feeling anxious, sad, or angry.
The person dealing with the aftermath of the trauma could also have trouble concentrating in general or sleeping. They may continue to think about the trauma and what had occurred to them.
Staff and administration are currently attempting to decrease this problem by providing as much assistance as possible to students who are dealing with, or have dealt with, trauma.
“For me personally, it’s really just processing and talking about it,” Fisher-Edens said, “Talking about the long-term effects of trauma and how do you react when threatened or scared or in a state of anxiety.”
Everything would be extremely relationship-based so that the students would be able to have someone to trust and confide in. It also means assisting the students to not be so reactive when dealing with their trauma.
“It doesn’t mean that the student is not accountable for their behavior,” Fisher-Edens said.
What it does mean is teachers would have a better understanding about what is happening when a student is responding to their trauma and be able to help their students whether it be in class or just around school.
The ways the district is trying to help with this situation is being more aware of trauma and knowing what to do when a student begins to show responses. A lot of it has to do with being more informed about what trauma looks like.
“People who have unresolved trauma typically go into fight, flight, or freeze mode quicker than people who have not experienced trauma,” Fisher-Edens said. “The most common symptoms are anxiety and anger.”
She said helping the student with talking about things like trauma triggers, reactivity, and long-term effects of their trauma is helpful.
“Students will typically self-disclose,” Fisher-Edens said when asked how she identifies students who have dealt with trauma.
However, if someone isn’t sure if they have trauma or not, trauma can be identified with a single test.
One of the common ways is through a test called the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) questionnaire, which is a series of ten questions (see the lower right side of this layout).
The ACE test consists of yes or no questions. Once a person has finished with the test they would then tally up their score.
As the ACE score increases, so does the risk of disease, social, mental and emotional problems. If someone was to score four or higher, it would mean things are getting incredibly dangerous for them.
Sometimes, kids will diagnose themselves with mental disorders that they feel they may have without a doctor’s prescription, which could cause a lot of problems whether they have it or not.
“Kids just want to put a label on something, to make it make sense.” Fisher-Edens said in answer to why kids may self-diagnose.
According to Fisher-Edens, one of the contributing factors to social anxiety today is student use of social media.
“I think it plays a big part because people would say things online they wouldn’t say directly in person, and there’s a lot of drama that goes on in social media that could cause anxiety,” Fisher-Edens said. “If you are a trauma survivor, you may be more sensitive to the negative impacts of social media. It’s important that we have an open dialogue about