START(ing) to catch on!
With inspiring results coming in every day (see chart which records decreases in frequency of symptoms), with more and more young people finding relief from their trauma using START (Screening and Tool for Awareness and Relief of Trauma), we’ve begun training other organizations to use our homegrown tool to identify trauma symptoms and give young sufferers temporary relief.
Sometimes it’s obvious who will suffer emotional trauma: gunshot victims, witnesses, survivors of the killed. But it’s not just the direct victims who suffer. Repeated violence has a powerful impact on everyone who lives or works or goes to school in a given neighborhood. An everyday atmosphere of tension and fear of violence traumatizes. Symptoms of this trauma, like sleeplessness, difficulty focusing, hyper-arousal, paranoia, affect mental and physical wellbeing; they influence behavior. They make the tasks of daily life, like paying attention in a classroom, difficult. They can lead one to make bad decisions, even rash decisions, even violent decisions. Too often, symptoms go unaddressed, unidentified, even misidentified.
START is an interview, a brief and private conversation. It begins with a set of six questions to help a participant identify the presence of problems related to trauma. START also provides simple, easy-to-use, self-applied relaxation techniques involving breathing, touch, hand-massage, sleep tips and other personal tools to relax you when you feel the symptoms coming on.
After two years of testing among hundreds of young people in Oakland, and finding that our tool had helped to decrease the severity and frequency of their trauma symptoms across the board, we have been training other organizations who work with victims of violence and young men of color in how to introduce their clients to START.
This year, Community Health Advocate Daniel Roman, our primary START evangelist, has trained staff at Oakland’s Alternatives in Action, BOSS and The Mentoring Center, California School-based Health Alliance in Richmond, and Natividad Medical Center in Salinas to conduct the brief interview that helps identify symptoms, and then to help participants make a plan to help them cope when the symptoms emerge.
“Everyone’s been really enthusiastic to do START with their clients,” says Daniel. “They see the decrease in symptoms people experience and they know it can help.”