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Resilience In Youth – protecting our fastest growing population

The youth rights and resilience focus on the protection from violence, the promotion of health, and the potential for wellness

Youth resilienceAdolescents are our fastest growing population, and their resilience is our concern. Dr. Christine Wekerle (Ph.D., Clinical Psychology) has been located in faculties of psychology, psychiatry, education, and pediatrics. Dr. Wekerle adopts a youth rights and resilience approach which recognizes the global agreement on the protection from violence, the promotion of health, and the potential for wellness. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child paved the way to create sustainable goals for youth development and healthy living. This includes a public health and safety attention to adolescence as a critical window of both risk and resilience, the need to prevent non-communicable diseases, and to promote intersectional, trauma-informed safe spaces and places for youth to explore, grow, and become. Dr. Christine Wekerle’s youth resilience research stems also from a social justice lens, addressing critical needs for violence prevention (child maltreatment, adolescent dating violence, and health risks from coping with trauma, such as substance abuse and sexual health risk-taking). Her research has focused on youth experiencing multiple adversity contexts, including those involved in the child welfare or child protection system, homeless youth, and youth seeking mental health treatment.  More recently, her gender-based violence and health work has centered on male sexual violence victims, an under-attended sub-group for prevention of and intervention for sexual exploitation.  Finally, this approach has evolved to include climate justice, with research models examining the connections among anxiety about Indigenous water resources and climate change, youth resilience and advocacy actions, and mental health and life promotion among Indigenous youth.  The trauma- and violence-informed approach is evident in the development of an app – JoyPopTM – that is intended to help build up a daily resilience routine. This approach extends to training – Trauma- and Violence-Informed Care for Health and Social Service Providers – provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Trauma-informed approaches are familiar to many organizations and service providers. Recently, this term has been expanded to include “and violence”, an important change in the language which underscores the connections between trauma and violence.

Trauma and violence-informed approaches are policies and practices that recognize the connections between violence, trauma, negative health outcomes and behaviours. These approaches increase safety, control and resilience for people who are seeking services in relation to experiences of violence and/or have a history of experiencing violence.

Trauma and violence-informed approaches require fundamental changes in how systems are designed, organizations function and practitioners engage with people based on the following key policy and practice principles:

  1. Understand trauma and violence, and their impacts on peoples’ lives and behaviours
  2. Create emotionally and physically safe environments
  3. Foster opportunities for choice, collaboration, and connection
  4. Provide a strengths-based and capacity-building approach to support client coping and resilience

Service providers and organizations who do not understand the complex and lasting impacts of violence and trauma may unintentionally re-traumatize. The goal of trauma and violence-informed approaches is to minimize harm to the people you serve—whether or not you know their experiences of violence.

Embedding trauma and violence-informed approaches into all aspects of policy and practice can create universal trauma precautions, which provide positive supports for all people. They also provide a common platform that helps to integrate services within and across systems and offer a basis for consistent ways of responding to people with such experiences.

To read more about this and the wider implications, click here.

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