I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live. – Deuteronomy 30:15 (NIV)
Health is more than the absence of disease. – (Author Unknown)
The Trauma-informed Community Movement is emerging in the United States. This social movement is gaining attention from various disciplines within the Behavioral Health Field, including Pastoral Care and Spiritual Counseling. In today’s contemporary society, community spiritual leaders have a golden opportunity to collaborate with other professionals to come up with solutions for those suffering from varying conditions of traumatic experiences.
My name is Chaplain Donrico E. Colden. I began my journey in the Trauma Field back in 1986. I was a resident student at a University Medical Center located in Central Pa. It was through that Clinical Pastoral Educational experience that I discovered how complex it was/ is to bring individuals to healing and hope, due to their brokenness. In my discipline, I learned the importance of using a body, mind, spirit approach in ministering to the sick and infirmed.
In 2002, I had the experience of participating in a 3-year Public Health and Faith Institute. It was through this specialization that I came to appreciate the integration of religion and medicine. My passion was aimed at persons of color who were suffering and dying needlessly. The highlight of the Institute was having the privilege of spending 4 days with community leaders from all walks of life. We spent time engaging one another about the problems that existed within our various communities and institutions. The case studies and the nature of the challenges we faced forced us to work together as interdisciplinary teams.
Trauma -informed Care was a major part of the curriculum for those four days. As a result, I joined the movement to begin tearing down the silos that had kept us separated from one another in our work as Healthcare Professions. The research that was presented to us on the topic: Adverse Childhood Experiences shook us at our very core.
We learned about 10 questions that were used to begin diagnosing the little ones who had been traumatized through abuse, neglect, rape, violence, drug and alcohol addiction, etc. It was through this training that we were reminded of the importance of doing a thorough personal history on all clients, students, patients, and the like.
The research study showed us how Trauma-informed Care Experiences are correlated with physical, mental, emotional (and spiritual) problems later in life. The sad reality is that so many Community Faith Leaders are oblivious to the reality that so many members of society are struggling with, especially within the Black Community. ( Congregations not excluded).
In the 30 years that I served as a Healthcare Chaplain, I’ve had the privilege of providing education and training events to clergy and lay-ministers of all faith backgrounds. The primary purpose being, to raise the level of awareness of what was taking place right in their own backyards.
My goal was/is to invite continued dialogue around the issue of trauma at the Community Scale. Research has shown us how entire communities are impacted by traumatic events. For example: When so many deaths by gun violence occur within a certain mile radius, people begin to exhibit symptoms (PTSD) that look similar to that of soldiers who have been in a war zone.
My recommendation is that we consider using Asset-Mapping as a strategy for locating community resources that will aid people who are living in unsafe/unhealthy environments. The truth is that there is no such thing as “a lack of resources”. Just a failure on our part to plan strategically.
The emphasis on trauma provides us a new lens for developing Community-Based Research for investigating the impact of slavery and its legacy of structural and systemic racism, on Black Mental Health today.
There should be no attempt at concluding the conversation. Dr. Howard Thurman taught us to maintain a “Holy Curiosity” when we become frustrated with trying to resolve theological or social issues prematurely. Therefore, I invite every reader of this article to join me in keeping the dialogue open concerning Mental Health and the Black Community.
–Chaplain Donrico E. Colden
Keystone Public Health and Spiritual Care, Executive Director.