The full-on mental health crisis occurring in the United States has fueled a push towards training for an approach, or framework called Trauma Informed Care, to be used in all types of healthcare service delivery. The push is for providers of health care services to be trained to shift their clinical approach to asking “what happened to you?” versus ‘what’s wrong with you?” It involves creating and environment of understanding, recognizing and responding to the effects of all types of trauma, both for patients and for clinicians. No one is immune to trauma and it can disrupt healthy development, quality of care, relationships and work performance. A recent study at the University of Buffalo (2018) demonstrated that programs that have implemented or become certified in Trauma Informed Care approaches have seen positive changes in both patient care outcomes and in employee wellness, performance and job satisfaction. That is the push for healthcare workers…service providers, but what about all other work places? What about employees in the community who are not healthcare service providers? Should we also be discussing how they too are impacted by trauma and how it carries over into the workplace?
A couple of weeks ago this column discussed an important report, from prominent CEOs in the U.S., that makes the case that employers should invest in mental health and build healthier workplaces. This report is critically important toward creating mental-health-friendly environments, redefining ‘workplace inclusiveness’ and reducing mental health stigma. It offers a good plan for moving toward education and acceptance of mental health as a legitimate health concern; however, the report does not mention trauma informed practices that an employer can include in their plans and policies.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the same organization that sets the standard for Drug-Free Workplace policies, offers a set of Key Assumptions and Principles that can be used by any employer, not just healthcare employers, to guide policy and practices that create a trauma informed workplace. Below are some highlights.
The Four R’s make up SAMHSAs key assumptions, summarized here:
Realize the widespread impact of trauma and how it can affect families, groups, organizations, and communities as well as individuals. al paths for recovery. Recognize signs and symptoms of trauma in employees, family members, and others involved with the organization. Respond by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices. Seek to actively Resist re-traumatization.
The Six Key Principles to guide workplace culture, protocols and daily practices are: Safety, Trustworthiness and Transparency, Peer Support, Collaboration and Mutuality Empowerment, Voice, and Choice and Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues.
You can read the full guidance at www.samhse.gov . While employers may not find ways to implement every key principle, simply being aware of this guidance while drafting policies, procedures, protocols and daily practices, any employer with interest in improving wellness, job performance and job satisfaction could reach those outcomes more easily.
Andrea Mory is a human resources and management professional who resides in North Texas. She has collaborated over the last 20 years with the private practice MoryTherapy to develop training and education programs related to behavioral health. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.