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'Brains in pain can't learn,' students and teachers possibly coping with trauma ahead of new school year

Posted at 6:27 AM, Aug 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-10 06:27:15-04

CLEVELAND — As we head into the new school year, many students and teachers aren’t just carrying books and supplies into their classrooms. They may be carrying anxiety, stress and trauma as well.

With recent mass shootings, war, and even a variety of challenges at home, there is a growing concern surrounding how to cope with it all.

A Qualtrics study released this month shows that 49% of high school students across the nation are struggling with a sense of belonging. It also reports that 41% of students no longer feel connected to their peers and teachers due to everything that’s happened over the past two years.

Dr. Carolyn Ievers-Landis, a licensed psychiatrist with UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, says many people may be coping with trauma.

“Children of all ages can experience trauma,” she said. “Even a child who maybe has lived in multiple homes or has gone to multiple schools or experiences bullying. There's just so many different events that can cause trauma for a particular child.”

Trauma is described as someone’s emotional and psychological reaction to a stressful event in their life, but it’s also a personal attack. El Jay’em, founder of Speakezie-Go Hard, says “trauma is a violent act against the soul.”

El Jay’em is currently helping Cleveland’s youth overcome traumatic attacks with a program she created called, Love, which means listen, observe vibe, and effect.

Targeting trauma specifically.

“The whole purpose of that is for them to establish a sense of self. learn neuro-Ju-Jitsu, which allows them to apply positivity to a negative situation. it helps the control their emotion…emotions are the center of everything. Emotions create your culture; your culture creates your environment and your environment creates your success,” El Jay’em said. “Without having the base control of those emotions then you most likely won’t see that success.”

Still, El Jay’em worries about what will come of those in need of healing once they’re back in classrooms. It's an environment some teachers are struggling with as well. She doesn’t believe many teachers and administrators are truly not prepared to take on outside trauma this school year.

“The stress of teaching is very real too…poor administration, no resources, no school supplies. “El Jay’em said. “Not only are we dealing with our own stress and if we don’t know how to deal with our own stress then we’re dealing with 20 other stressors.”

Identifying trauma is not easy. However, Ievers- Landis says trouble eating, sleeping, bad dreams, acting out or regression in skills are signs to look for.

“We're figuring out through research and science better ways of both screening for traumatic events and treating them and helping children flourish after they've even been in traumatic situations.”