Over two-thirds of all adults in the United States have experienced some form of childhood trauma or adversity, significantly increasing their likelihood of experiencing mental health issues, substance misuse, unhealthy relationships and physical health issues later in life.
We’ve identified this cycle of trauma in our community and have launched Resilient Lehigh Valley, a cross-sector, collective-impact effort dedicated to fostering hope and healing for Lehigh Valley youth, families, and communities through trauma-informed and culturally responsive practices and systems. We work to break the cycles of family and community trauma to improve school and health outcomes and increase work productivity for the students and families we serve.
We do this through:
- Raising community awareness on trauma, especially Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), and pathways to healing and building resilience.
- Providing training on trauma-informed practices to those in helping professions, parents, and community members.
- Advocating for schools, health, human service, and law enforcement agencies to adopt a trauma-informed and culturally responsive framework.
- Acting as a clearinghouse for new research, tools, tips, and best practices in trauma-informed care and resiliency-building strategies.
- Campaigning for trauma-informed legislation, policies and local, state and federal funding.
United Way Supports Students’ Mental Health and Success in School
When children experience trauma, it negatively impacts their ability to learn, form relationships and succeed in the classroom. Too often, trauma-impacted children and teens shut down, zone out, act out, or self-harm, and have worsened school attendance, behavior, academics and health outcomes.
The youth mental health epidemic is rising with more children reporting that they experienced traumatic events in and outside of home. Growing up with trauma, Chief Michelle Kott of the Bethlehem Area Police Department understands the deep impact of trauma and how it can negatively impact youth’s mental and physical health.
My trauma has stayed with me, and it’s important that I’m out in the community letting others know that they are resilient and aren’t alone.
To help children exposed to trauma, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley launched Pennsylvania’s first Handle With Care program in the Safe 2 Say System. Through Handle With Care, law enforcement and first responders provide schools with an early alert that a student may have experienced something traumatic outside of school prompting staff to handle them with care. Staff assess the student’s physical and emotional wellbeing and connects the child to any additional support services they might need.
Since its launch in 2020, over 1,000 students throughout the region received support through Handle With Care communication.