May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Millions of Americans live with a mental illness every year, yet only 43.8% sought treatment in 2019 (NAMI). At The Women’s Center, we believe it’s crucial to raise awareness to break the stigma of living with a mental health diagnosis to ensure that nobody feels alone or without the support they need.
This is especially important for our work – the trauma of domestic and sexual violence often leads to survivors experiencing symptoms or receiving diagnoses of mental illnesses such as depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.
This means that it is essential that all of our programs and services are based on trauma informed care. All of our staff receive ongoing training in trauma informed care best practices so that from our clients very first contact with The Women’s Center – whether it’s through our 24-Hour Hotline, at the front desk, their appointments, or any interactions with our shelter staff and Advocates – they feel safe, heard, and respected.
What is trauma informed care?
Trauma informed care moves beyond asking, “what is wrong with you,” to “what has happened to you?” This shift in focus is critical because “it acknowledges the role that trauma has played in your health, behaviors, and relationships” (Wisconsin DHS). Professionals who practice trauma-informed care attempt to fully understand the effect of trauma and devise a treatment plan to aid in recovery. When used effectively, trauma-informed care enables Advocates to provide support to prevent re-traumatization and victim blaming.
6 Guiding Principles To A Trauma-Informed Approach
(Provided by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services)
- Safety – Strive to create environments where people feel physically and emotionally safe.
- Trustworthiness and transparency – Striving to build and maintain trust by being transparent in our actions and choices.
- Peer support – Striving to encourage trust and collaboration by sharing stories and lived experiences that promote recovery and healing.
- Collaboration and mutuality – Striving for dignity and equality in our relationships by sharing power and decision-making so that everyone has a role to play.
- Empowerment and choice – Striving to recognize, validate, and build on the strengths that people have to offer, and work to facilitate recovery rather than control it.
- Cultural, historical, and gender issues – Striving to move past biases, recognize historical trauma and the healing power of cultural connections, and incorporate practices that are responsive to racial, ethnic, and cultural needs.
How The Women’s Center provides support:
The Women’s Center provides free short-term advocacy and support services that focus on crisis intervention and providing emotional support. We work with individuals and families on developing boundaries, practicing coping skills, identifying supports, and connecting to additional resources. These services are available to survivors of all ages, races, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, nationalities, and immigration status. Services are offered in English, Spanish, and Hmong onsite. We do not provide mental health counseling, diagnosis, or treatment plans. Our services are always free to those who need them, and clients are encouraged to partake in our advocacy programs for as long as they feel they are needed.
Our programs and services include: emergency shelter and 24-Hour Hotline; 1:1 advocacy and support; legal advocacy; transitional living and housing assistance; community education and violence prevention; rape crisis response; employment coaching and life-skills development; translation/interpretation in any language; and free on-site childcare for clients.
We understand that physically escaping an abuser or reaching out for help after disclosing a sexual assault/abuse is only one part of a victim’s road to recovery. Without ongoing mental health support and guidance, it is incredibly hard to overcome the trauma’s associated with abuse. However, with the right support network, and time, our goal is to help our clients transition from victims to survivors.
If you or someone you know is a survivor and needs help, please call our 24-Hour Hotline at 262.542.3828 anytime.
- Mental Health Stats by NAMI
- Trauma Informed Practices by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services
- Creating Trauma-informed Services by the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health
- NAMI Southeast Wisconsin – provides free mental health support to anyone in the community