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Toxic stress of pandemic could impact future academic, business outcomes; free training addresses community response plan

People across Clark County and the world are dealing with varying degrees of isolation, stress and anxiety stemming from the coronavirus shutdown and quarantine.

This creates a toxic stress and trauma that can overwhelm and paralyze a person.

As social distancing and quarantine precautions are reduced, there will be a continued impact that may affect productivity and profits for businesses, student achievement in schools and family dynamics.

A free training series will offer a framework to cope with these difficult circumstances — whether we are at home, school or work — thanks to a grant from The Greater Clark Foundation.

“Our lives are all very different now,” Patricia Stewart-Hopkins, Clark County Mental Health Task Force chairperson, said. “We’re all experiencing different degrees of toxic stress, and it will surface as disciplinary problems in school, absenteeism for students and employees, job-related injuries, reduced productivity and family strife.

“These trainings will help you be more effective by bringing awareness to the signs of toxic stress and offering a more intentional way of responding to this collective experience. This will help us meet our individual and collective need for security, that will lead to a healthier community overall.”

Research shows people respond to this type of toxic stress and traumatic experience by learning to adapt to keep themselves safe.

That can include withdrawing from others, micro-managing, self-injurious or high-risk behaviors like abusing substances, gambling, overspending and having unprotected sex.

“These coping behaviors won’t be tolerated in businesses or schools, but to succeed — as a school district, a business, a family, a community — we must understand how to help people rise above their traumatic experiences,” Jen Algire, president and CEO of The Greater Clark Foundation, said. “Consider if when school returns, we suddenly see 50 percent more students acting out. Our current disciplinary process won’t be the best way to handle these students who are in reality struggling to cope with the trauma caused by such upheaval and uncertainty in their normal everyday lives.”

The training will provide actionable strategies to replace these risky behaviors with healthier alternatives in the education sector, business sector and at home.

In each training, a team of qualified mental health providers will focus on:

— Understanding: How to recognize someone’s behaviors as coping with toxic stress and trauma.

— Response: Strategies that help people overcome the trauma they’re dealing with. This includes relationship-building, needs assessments and how to support those needs. Examples include school discipline responses, parent-child power struggles and recommendations for policy or benefits changes for businesses.

— Encouraging help-seeking: There are a variety of ways we can receive help or advocate for others to receive support, including the significance of self-care when caring for others.

Studies show when supervisors and managers recognize these behaviors as a person trying to overcome the effects of toxic stress, there are massive benefits for staff and the business as a whole.

Community members must register in advance for the following free sessions:

Understanding and Addressing Toxic Stress & Trauma Training

Focus

Date and Time

Registration Link

— Families at noon Monday, May 4. Register at https://bit.ly/trauma-families.

— Educators at noon Wednesday, May 6. Register at https://bit.ly/trauma-educators.

— Businesses at noon Thursday, May 7. Register at https://bit.ly/trauma-business.

For more information, visit ClarkAmbition.org.