Promoting inclusion and mental well-being | Promouvoir l’inclusion et le mieux-être mental
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Trauma-informed workshops support EMSB staff, parents

Montreal - Friday, May 5, 2023

by Jordan Stoopler

A pilot project has started at the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) to inform teachers and staff about trauma through a series of workshops. It’s part of an effort to inform and empower the EMSB community in managing adverse experiences and sensitizing school communities to trauma care.

Trauma is something that touches a vast number of individuals. According to the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as high as 61 percent of adults report having experienced potentially traumatic events, also known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), as children and adolescents (ages 0 to 17).

ACEs have been linked to chronic physical health problems, mental illness and substance abuse among other consequences. “This has become an important area of focus in the EMSB community, particularly from a prevention point of view as well as a way to support and empower our community,” said Despina Vassiliou, psychologist and coordinator, Student Services with the EMSB.

John F. Kennedy High School was one school which has benefitted from the workshops. These were led by trauma informed care and wellness consultant Rosetta Sowkey for staff members both individually and in group settings at the beginning of the 2022/2023 school year.

“We wanted to open it up to the entire staff and give them that training so they know how to spot the signs and triggers of trauma amongst our students,” said the school’s interim principal Vito Guerriero. “We never talk specifically about what we can do to help those who have been witness to trauma. These workshops are the ones that spoke best to our community. It changed a lot of people’s lives here.”

Other trauma-informed workshops have also since been held at EMSB outreach schools such as Vezina High School and Mile End following the success of the pilot program at John F. Kennedy High School. Recently, Sowkey presented a parent workshop entitled, “Understanding my child’s responses to lived experiences and how to support their learning.” She offered tips such as how to practice mindfulness with children, recognize symptoms of trauma and behaviour responses following trauma, and different ways to practice mental and physical health.

More on Sowkey’s consulting for trauma care

Rosetta Sowkey, a trauma informed care and wellness consultant, outlines the benefits of seeking help after exposure to a traumatic event on her website She says trauma integration counselling can provide individuals with confidence “to cope with daily stressors,” offer strategies in grounding and mindfulness, “reduce fear and anxiety by confronting the trauma memories” and allow for increased trust to be built with oneself and others, among other noted benefits. On her website, Sowkey suggested someone exhibiting signs of anxiety and fear “which are impacting your life,” difficulty concentrating, irregular sleep patterns, anger and irritability, guilt, shame or isolation should determine if this type of counselling is appropriate for their situation.