June 11, 2020

From Mandy Davis, LCSW, PhD, Director, Trauma Informed Oregon

This newsletter is focused on the trauma informed care (TIC) principle of Peer Support and Mutual-Self Help. You are going to learn about some amazing peer support programs from the contributors in this newsletter. I want to share my thoughts about how I understand the intention of this principle—that healing and wellness happens best when we are in the company of those that understand what we are going through because they have a shared experience. We need to have spaces where people can be seen and heard for their whole selves. Spaces where Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) do not have to say a word to still be understood, or can say whatever is needed and there not be repercussions. Spaces where a LGTBQAI2S+ person does not have to deny a part of their self to make others comfortable. Spaces where a survivor does not have to hide their struggle to stay present and engaged to be in community with others.

There are many examples of peer support and mutual self-help in response to the public health crisis of COVID-19. Groups and neighbors forming to offer to go grocery shopping, make masks, or help to pay rent. We also see this as we address the public health crisis of racism that Leslie Gregory has been educating us about for years (see campaign here)—joining with peers to advocate, hold accountable, and make changes.

So, who are your peers? They may not always be the people who you live with, work with, or hang out with. You likely have different peers for different needs. Being with those who have different experiences is essential for us to grow, evolve, and create. We also need spaces where we can be our authentic, beautiful, messy self.

Peer support is necessary for coping and thriving. Holding the organizational focus of our work, I ask you, How are you creating space right now for Black and Brown colleagues and coworkers to practice peer support?

Consider this advice from Rebecca Davis, MA, CSWA, a black, indigenous, queer woman who does antiracist, trauma informed work (see their work at ARTIC):

  • DO center the voices of BIPOC (particularly Black) staff.
  • DO commit yourselves to antiracist, trauma informed training (you CANNOT be trauma informed without also being antiracist).
  • DO look at the racist policies, practices, and procedures in your workplace and begin to rewrite them.
  • DO take a look at the level of diversity, especially in leadership, management, and on your board.
  • DO be aware that training and consulting organizations are particularly busy at this time, and be OK with that, since y’all are the ones late to the game.
  • DO your personal work on how to be a less harmful white person. This includes reading books, attending workshops, listening to podcasts, etc.
  • DO PAY Black educators and activists.
  • DO encourage Black colleagues and supervisees to take PTO. Better yet, give them time off without needing to use their PTO. Give them extra breaks. Encourage them to only work for 8 hours and then close their computers.
  • DON’T hire white antiracist educators to come to your organization and train everyone in how to be antiracist. White folx cannot be the poison and the antidote.
  • DON’T apologize to BIPOC staff for your past mistakes as a white person.
  • DON’T reach out to BIPOC staff, colleagues, friends, etc., to ask them if they will help you process your experiences as a white person during this time.
  • DON’T single out BIPOC staff to ask them to speak at meetings, or send emails, to share their own personal experiences. If you want to make that offer to all of your staff of color, send it generally, and in a meeting.
  • Don’t single anyone out, and also don’t be surprised if no one takes you up on the offer. In general,
  • In general, DON’T add extra emotional, physical, or mental burden to BIPOC colleagues, friends, neighbors, family, etc.

There is harm and pain happening right now—witnessing current racialized violence, having a history of these experiences be resurfaced for BIPOC, being retraumatizated when systems fail.  Racism is at the root of so much trauma. This is why doing antiracist work is prevention work. In this video, Black Lives, TIC, and Workforce Wellness, listen to the wisdom of these Black voices who were willing to share their lived experiences in the service of Black wellness and white action.  Listen and learn about Racial Battle Fatigue, Black community care, a call to action for white people, the balance of having both fear and hope, and more. Working towards needed changes with others can be uplifting, hopeful, and healing. It can also be exhausting and when it is not centered and led by Black and Brown voices it can be harmful.

Think about this, How can we organizationally, and how can I as a white colleague, not add to the burden of BIPOC colleagues?  I started this list, for white people, to offer some examples of how to operationalize some of this wisdom. I look forward to your additions, critique, and edits.

What white colleagues can say to Black and Brown colleagues right now:

  • I didn’t want to exclude you but there is no need to respond at this time.
  • There is no need to respond to this/these emails.
  • Prioritize your care and community care right now.
  • Please take time off as needed—days or parts of days.
  • If you show up, it is OK to not show up with your whole self.
  • You do not need to be a part of conversations with white people about race.
  • If you want to drop knowledge you are welcome to do that anytime without having to hold the follow-up.
  • Please send any white people with questions to me.
  • We will be paying for a counselor/healer that is Black to be available as needed for the next month.
  • I can cover that meeting for you.
  • We will hold this space (e.g., lunch room or Zoom meeting time) for Black and Brown colleagues to gather for peer support.
  • I will do the work. I will be guided by the voices of the BIPOC community but I will do the work. Meaning I will listen, read, and listen more. It means I will make changes and suggestions. I will welcome your judgements and suggestions even when it means I need to do it again. But I will do the work.

Helpful Blog Posts

From this newsletter’s contributors, here are some blogs posts that show the importance of peer support and mutual self-help.

TIO Updates

  • We launched our Steering Committee! This is one of the ways we wanted to increase and diversify voices about TIC in Oregon. We have 22 participants from 13 counties, and across sectors and lived experiences.
  • We held a gathering with about 24 people around the state about how to keep TIC present at this time.
  • The Train the Trainer was completed with 33 participants virtually! Much gratitude to Shilo George of Lush Kumtux Tumtum Consulting for co-facilitating with us! 
  • We collaborated with Oregon Care Partners to develop and deliver an introduction to TIC in long-term care.
  • The Trauma Informed Care Foundations virtual training was completed.
  • Stephanie Sundborg presented virtually at the Healing Trauma Conference  and virtually at OHSU with Conversations for Clinicians #10 – Trauma Informed Principles for Health Professionals.

To Do List: