This webinar discussing the connection between social determinants of health, trauma, toxic stress, adverse community events, community trauma, and mental illness was presented by SAMHSA’s Program to Achieve Wellness (PAW). The webinar featured Crystal Lee Brandow, Ph.D., assistant director of PAW; Reuben Cantu, program manager for the Prevention Institute; and Richard Smith, M.A., national director of HealingWorks; and was moderated by Jasmin Brandow, M.A.

Five key social determinants of health have an outsized impact on individuals’ and groups’ mental health and risk for toxic stress, individual trauma, and community trauma, which include economic stability, education, social and community context, health and health care, and neighborhood and the built environment. Among those, examples of negative social determinants of health include poverty, social exclusion, poor education, lack of quality health care, lack of quality food, and discrimination, which can compound other negative determinants. All of these negative determinants can directly impact mental health, both by making trauma and toxic stress more common at the individual and community levels and by exacerbating their effects.

The webinar makes the case that health inequities observed among disadvantaged communities are the consequences of policies, practices, and procedures across multiple determinants of health. Political practices, such as redlining, have limited communities’ abilities to self-determine and prosper, thereby concentrating disadvantaged groups in underserved areas, contributing to disparate health outcomes. Efforts to achieve greater equity must take place across multiple sectors to reduce trauma and toxic stress in communities where negative social determinants are common. Incorporating trauma- and healing-informed approaches into community policies and organizations can help support positive social determinants, such as social support and inclusion, nurturing family environments, and opportunities for engagement in the community, which reduce stress and stress-related trauma, allowing communities and individuals to heal.

This resource was first shared in 2018.

(Presentation, YouTube)