Exploring the Impacts of Community Trauma and Toxic Stress on Our Well-Being

This presentation was authored by Crystal Lee Brandow, Ph.D., and Cathy Cave and delivered at the Hope, Healing & the Human Spirit: Stronger Together 2018 Conference. The presentation discusses how common factors in low-income communities can negatively impact the well-being of residents and how wellness-first, public health, and trauma-informed approaches can be leveraged to improve community-wide quality of mental health and life.

The presentation approaches this topic from the perspective that wellness is a social justice issue, as mental health challenges and chronic diseases disproportionately affect marginalized communities. The authors show how this disproportionate burden is directly related to community-level factors that people experience as a result of where they live. Stress and trauma impact low-income and underserved communities at elevated rates, contributing to poorer health outcomes, including shorter life expectancy.

The five critical determinants for wellness include economic stability, education, social and community context, health and health care, and a built environment. Lack of wellness affects communities, and existing community-based resources are tasked with challenging negative social determinants that contribute to toxic stress. Wellness-focused public health approaches are aware of these negative social determinants and can address them by providing services to address these needs, such as tutoring and food assistance. Community-based resources already have familiarity and rapport established within their communities, making the people that live there more trusting to use those resources. Supporting these community-based resources and ensuring they are trauma-informed can help unite their community and help the people within it flourish.

This resource was first shared in 2018.

(Presentation, 2.8MB)

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