Seonjoon Young, M.Div. ’17, her approach to working with students, even those who have been affected by trauma, is deceptively simple.
“For me, it’s acknowledging that we, not just students but the teachers as well, bring everything into the classroom,” said Young, an English and journalism teacher at Eaglecrest High School in Centennial, Colo., who incorporates trauma-informed practices in her work.
“Most of us are actually ill-equipped to appropriately and healthily set something [emotional] aside so we can focus on a task,” she said.
Focus can be especially hard for someone who has experienced trauma.
“Trauma is not ‘I had a breakup,’” Young said. “There are the normal challenges and sorrows of life, and then trauma is another layer where there is a shaping or a skewing of worldview, and something that happens to the core sense of self and safety.”
Public health authorities, including the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, call the kinds of incidents that result in trauma adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and included within that category are physical abuse, verbal abuse, neglect, abandonment, and the death of a parent.
Young explained that paying attention to this type of trauma is especially important right now because “there’s a mental health crisis with adolescents, and the state of Colorado is in more dire straits than other states.” According to a new report by the United Health Foundation, Colorado had the highest increase in teen suicide rates in the U.S. since 2016. “The school I was in two semesters ago, we had three suicides. There were two suicides in the fall semester of 2018 at a nearby high school.”