Improving understanding of Trauma, Bereavement and Loss

The Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ), Barnardo’s Scotland and the University of Strathclyde are supporting the move towards a trauma-informed workforce, with the publication of work aimed at documenting and improving understanding of the trauma, bereavement and loss needs of vulnerable young people and adults caught up in the justice and other systems, or who are at risk of becoming so.

Summary findings have been published today in Trauma, Bereavement and Loss: Key learning and messages from research and practice’ which draws out the key messages and themes from five research papers in order to inform the development of trauma-informed approaches more widely.

CYCJ’s Research Lead Nina Vaswani said:

“The prevalence of traumatic and adverse childhood experiences, and the potentially enduring and detrimental impact of such experiences on emotional, psychological and physical health and wellbeing, is something we’re becoming increasingly aware of – both as professionals, and in wider society. As a result, there is increased policy and practice attention paid to identifying, understanding and addressing trauma and adversity among individuals. Importantly, this isn’t just focused on trauma-specialist provision for those who have experienced trauma, but also on ensuring the entire workforce is trauma informed, as is outlined in the NHS Education for Scotland’s Transforming Psychological Trauma framework.

“We combined our collective experience of policy, practice and research in loss, trauma and bereavement to help widen understanding of the importance of these developments, but also the challenges that might need to be overcome in order to implement the necessary changes in policy and practice.”

Research was undertaken with partners including HMP & YOI Polmont, the Robertson Trust (who funded some of the research) and selected schools. The resulting work comprises five papers: exploring the bereavement experiences and mental health of young men in custody; an evaluation of trauma, bereavement and loss developments at HMP & YOI Polmont; challenges and opportunities for trauma-informed practice in the prison context (to be published in the Howard Journal of Crime and Justice); the trauma, bereavement and loss experiences of women in prison and an evaluation of Barnardo’s Scotland ‘Here and Now’ service in schools.

Nicki Lawrence, Policy Lead for Mental Health and Wellbeing for Barnardo’s Scotland, said:

“We are pleased to be able to publish these summary findings today with our partners from the Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice which highlight the key messages from our collective work to improve understanding of trauma-informed approaches.

“From our frontline work in communities, schools and within the custodial estate in Scotland we see first-hand the impact of trauma on children and young people. We are therefore fully supportive of the Scottish Government’s commitment to a trauma-informed workforce. We want to see trauma-informed and responsive adults working with all children and young people in a relational way, because we know that children and young people need safe, stable, trusting relationships in order to heal and recover from trauma, and lay the foundations for positive mental health and wellbeing.

“We hope these findings can contribute to the work being undertaken across Scotland to develop a truly trauma-responsive workforce.”

Nina Vaswani concluded:

“Our findings confirm that trauma and loss-informed universal services (especially schools) are a necessity to create the right environment for development, learning and thriving, and benefits everyone, not just those affected by trauma. Across the varied workforce in our research we found examples of good practice and a clear desire to enhance the support available for children and adults who have experienced trauma, bereavement and loss. However, we also document the huge implications for organisations in upskilling their workforce, in accessing and providing the right training support, supervision and debriefing. In addition, there is understandable anxiety and apprehension around talking about the subject of death and dying, especially with children and young people, issues around stigma, and sometimes tension between different organisational cultures, values and attitudes which can make it more difficult to make the changes that are needed.

“Longer term research is clearly needed, but if this work shows anything, it is that trauma really is everyone’s business.”

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Children's and Young People's Centre for Justice
University of Strathclyde
Lord Hope Building, Level 6
141 St. James Road Glasgow G4 0LT

(0141) 444 8622

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