Letter from SE™ International Public Health Project Manager Kianna Pierson – May 16, 2022

by | May 16, 2022 | POINT OF VIEW

Dear Global SE Community,

Did you know we have a public health department here at SEI? We do! And I’m excited to share a bit about what we’ve been up to lately.

First, you should know that a major role of public health is prevention. Public health is what teaches us to wash our hands to prevent the spread of germs, wear our seatbelts to prevent death and reduce injuries in case of a car accident, get 10,000 steps a day to prevent a host of chronic diseases, and change our fire alarm batteries once a year to prevent house fire deaths. Public health has an important role in mental health, too.

As we know, everyday stressors and unresolved trauma can accumulate in the body. If not resolved, they can lead to a variety of negative impacts on our mental and physical health. In public health, we focus extensively on how these impacts are amplified for some communities more than others. Communities that lack access to healthcare, food, and clean drinking water, communities that experience high rates of interpersonal and systemic violence, or communities that have been pushed into less desirable geographic areas—such as those with poor air or soil quality—these communities experience the negative impacts of these stressors in deeper, more systemic ways.

When I think about SE and the power it has to heal trauma, my public health instinct is always to seek ways to prevent the trauma from happening in the first place. During the last year I’ve been working at SEI, I have been able to collaborate with staff and faculty to have those prevention discussions. What has come out of active consultation with board leaders, faculty mentors, and other SEPs is a new SE-informed training program that can interrupt and prevent trauma. This program, called the Crisis Stabilization and Safety Program, or CSS, is a neurobiological approach to crisis intervention that’s currently being piloted by SEI.

You might be familiar with the SCOPE tool (if you’re not, check it out). This was the first CSS tool to be developed; it was released in 2020 during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and kicked off a lot of what has become CSS. SCOPE was initially developed as a tool for ICU nurses who were under tremendous amounts of stress in the early months of the pandemic. It’s a simple set of SE-informed exercises: Slow Down, Connect to Body, Orient, Pendulate, and Engage. These six simple steps can be done by anyone, anytime, anywhere. This tool is in the process of being translated into 23 different languages, and we hope to add more, including American Sign Language, over the next few months.

It was initially developed by Alexandra Whitney in collaboration with over 17 neurobiologically-oriented therapists, doctors, and emergency responders. Since then, it has been widely circulated and utilized in crisis scenarios around the world, from the 2020 earthquake in Croatia, to mass-shooting incidents in Boulder, Colorado, with Indigenous populations in the Southwest Pueblos, in hurricane-affected communities in the Louisiana Bayou, and currently, with responders, refugees, and humanitarian groups in Eastern Europe. It’s also been presented to the UN Committee on Mental Health and FEMA’s Higher Education Coalition.

Born out of this great work, the CSS training program is designed for emergency responders and other front-line professionals, and provides tools for them to help themselves, their peers, and their communities in times of crisis. It’s a one-day or three-day intensive training, designed by the CSS Advisory Committee, in partnership with SEI faculty advisors and subject matter experts. It’s focused on evidence-based support protocols that prevent psychological trauma, improve community resilience outcomes, and give people practical, tactical tools to stabilize their nervous systems in times of crisis. CSS also promotes empathetic interpersonal interactions and stress management for everything from daily stressors to natural disasters or mass casualty events.

We’ve learned a lot from the early pilots of this program and are now designing an extensive peer review process that will engage many experts, including SEI board and faculty, in assessing and evaluating it. We’re very excited to share this new training program with the SE community when it’s ready to launch! Stay tuned for more information this summer. In the meantime, if you have questions, please reach out to the public health team at publichealth@traumahealing.org. We would love to hear from you!

Kianna Pearson
Project Manager
Public Health Initiatives