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Blue & You Foundation grant helps educators recognize and address childhood trauma

By Kennedy Kinley

Looking for a Unicorn

Finding the right therapist for a child can be like looking for a unicorn. An internet search may offer an overwhelming number of links on childhood trauma, substance use or anxiety, but no reputable information for seeking treatment. You may meet barriers, like access in rural areas or difficulty affording sessions. With 1 in 4 Arkansas youths experiencing childhood trauma, there must be a solution.

The Trauma Resource Initiative for Schools

“It becomes the job of the teacher, the coach and the parent,” said Dr. Nikki Edge, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). “It becomes all of our jobs to support children who have experienced trauma.”

Trauma Resource Initiative for Schools (TRIS) serves elementary and secondary schools by equipping more than 7,500 educators and caregiving adults to recognize the trauma-related needs of students, families and staff. TRIS aims to reach more school personnel who need reputable information from a trustworthy resource. In a TRIS training, one teacher learned, “There is hope, and you can help build resilience in children.”

In collaboration with the Arkansas Department of Education, TRIS social workers and psychologists perform post-crisis consultations for schools.

TRIS also offers trauma care managers to connect students and their families to treatment options. One staff member said, “We truly appreciate all the ways we were supported by TRIS. We never felt like we were left without resources or people to help.”

Next Steps

The Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas recently announced $6 million in grants to support programs working on youth and adolescent behavioral health, including TRIS. With this new funding, TRIS, in partnership with AR ConnectNow, is building a one-stop Digital Wellness Welcome Center with easily accessible and navigable resources for mental health, treatment options and support for accessing care, including crisis hotlines.

“We’ve learned so much about the unmet mental health needs of parents and youth and their difficulty navigating the mental health system,” Dr. Edge said. “They talked about how hard it was to find information or to know how or where to seek treatment. We want the virtual Wellness Welcome Center to be a trusted source of information about mental health that youth, parents and teachers can access to get answers on how to develop positive mental health, learn about mental health concerns and find treatment.”

Deflating big emotions

Blowing up imaginary balloons or even blowing bubbles can help young children learn to regulate big emotions. Dr. Edge shared how the TRIS team taught a young boy with a history of childhood trauma to do deep breathing and imagine a balloon inflating and deflating.

“The whole class learned about breathing and practiced it daily. When the boy was upset, the teacher helped him remember to breathe. The other students also recognized his emotions and helped by coming over and saying, ‘You look upset. Would you like me to breathe with you?’”

Another way the team teaches breathing is by blowing bubbles. They have the students breathe in big and deep and then blow out long and slow to get good bubbles.


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