The Top Six Takeaways from our 2023 Conference
by Jake Donofrio
Presented by MindWise Innovations and Riverside Trauma Center, our 12th annual conference, The Rise of Resilience: Living Through Trauma and Disruptive Events, united hundreds of attendees in discussions on how trauma intersects diversity, equity, and productivity.
Throughout the event, our acclaimed speakers shared trauma-informed strategies and actionable techniques for employers, clinicians, teachers, workers, and anyone else looking to build resilience and create sustainable models of support and change.
Here are some of our favorite takeaways.
1) Embrace Ordinary Magic
Dr. Sheretta Butler-Barnes, Associate Professor of Social Work at Washington University, kicked off the day with a powerful dive into the intersection of trauma and diversity.
She explained that as systemic racism continues to influence our society, finding effective ways to assist black children and families is crucial to their well-being and identity formation. One of the most successful methods of supporting black communities is to prioritize cultural strength-based coping assets- also known as “ordinary magic”.
Research shows that families of color can share stories of black resilience, engage in social activism, and set goals for the future to tap into this “ordinary magic” and reduce the impact of traumatic stress.
Dr. Butler-Barnes’ presentation emphasized that strength-based approaches are collaborative processes. Though it’s important for decision-makers to champion change, adults need to give children the chance to name what’s important to them as well.
Click here to watch Dr. Butler-Barnes’ full morning keynote presentation.
2) Engage in Active Allyship
Sticking with our themes of trauma and resiliency, Preston Mitchum, Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project, left a lasting impression on attendees with his data-driven appeal for increased support of the LGBTQ community.
Though LGBTQ youth are not inherently prone to suicide risk because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, they are placed at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society. However, data has shown that among LGBTQ young people, having at least one accepting adult in their lives can reduce the risk of a suicide attempt by 40%.
Information like this highlights the critical role an LGBTQ ally can play. In his keynote, Preston suggested five simple ways to increase allyship with the LGBTQ community:
- Be kind. Empathy is the best form of communication.
- Use inclusive language.
- Use folks’ pronouns correctly and consistently.
- Encourage self-advocacy by amplifying LGBTQ voices.
- Speak out against LGBTQ harassment, discrimination, biases, and microaggressions.
Though these techniques are geared toward the LGBTQ community, all members of marginalized populations can benefit from allyship in their homes, schools, offices, and communities. The effect might not be felt immediately, as change takes time, but being an ally to a group in need can have a monumental impact.
Check out afternoon keynote speaker Preston Mitchum’s presentation here.
3) Recognize that Trauma Impacts us all in Unique Ways.
“We have this one little word – trauma, as if all experiences are the same,” said conference speaker Margaret Blaustein, Ph.D., Director of Center for Trauma Training, Inc.
But we know that’s not true- multiple people can have different reactions to the same event.
As we also learned from other speakers throughout the day such as Dr. Butler-Barnes, Preston Mitchum, and Waheeda Saif, trauma does not have an equitable impact among races, sexual orientations, and communities. We are all unique individuals, raised in diverse circumstances, with varying levels of risk tolerance.
Dr. Blaustein discussed this inequity and talked in-depth about how certain factors that affect our perception of trauma tend to get overlooked, including:
- Age/developmental stage during exposure
- Lasting impact
- Social support
- Contextual issues (culture/family)
- Societal issues (systemic trauma and barriers)
- Presence/absence of additional resources
Trauma is frustratingly complex- in the experience itself, and also in the ways that it intertwines with the person living through it. When managing trauma- whether in our schools, workplaces, clinical practices, or ourselves- we need to see the individual as an individual, understand them in the context of their own lives, and provide culturally appropriate strength-based resources to reduce the impact of traumatic stress.
Click here to watch the full presentation from Dr. Margaret Blaustein.
4) Peer Support Works
Peer support is when people who have successfully recovered from mental health challenges help others who are experiencing similar situations. During our workplace panel discussion “Building Resilience Through Community: The Power of Peer to Peer”, a trio of experts: Cal Beyer, Michael Bonadio Jr, LMFT, and Leigh Beck, LICSW, explained that not only does peer support work, but that it’s also evidence-based, can decrease hospitalizations, and leads to improvement in overall well-being.
So, what exactly is the role of a peer support worker?
- Provide an empathetic listening ear
- Identify individuals at risk of harming themselves or others
- Facilitate pathways for help
- Provide low-level intervention such as PFA
Peer support often occurs in ERGs, as well as through DE&I initiatives, and can be especially effective when implemented in the workplace.
Leaders today have started to embrace this recovery-friendly workplace movement, as peer support also creates an empathetic culture of caring and reduces turnover. These programs can build a resilient team of employees who understand and value each other – reducing absenteeism and increasing productivity as well as a sense of self-worth across your workforce.
Click here to learn more about peer support from the day’s panel.
5) Simplify the flow of Resources with a Mental Health Guide
In our afternoon workplace panel discussion, leaders from Turner Construction, Harry’s Inc., and Fishing Support Services talked in length about understanding the importance of mental health to personal as well as professional growth and provided one of the best action items we heard all day:
Organizations of all kinds can benefit by simplifying the flow of resources with a mental health guide. Supports and benefits are helpful, but less so when people don’t know what aids they have at their disposal or how to access behavioral health resources.
Schools, corporations, and clinics can start by centralizing all their mental health resources and benefits in one easy-to-access location. Experts from the panel recommend beginning with a list of EAPs and ERGs, a guide to self-care, and providing all employees with a comprehensive tour of your new web page or portal.
Dive into our panel discussion to listen to the full conversation on making mental health resources more accessible in the workplace.
6) Resilience is on the Rise
While this was a virtual event, the energy during our 2023 conference was still palpable. The tremendous display of passion for mental health care in our speakers, panelists, and attendees was profoundly inspiring and revitalized our mission to support the full continuum of mental health with evidence-based solutions for all ages.