On Friday 17th September, we facilitated a screening of the award-winning documentary, ‘Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope’ to a group of nineteen social care students and staff from Technological University of the Shannon’s (TUS) Thurles campus.
It was one of ten, virtual screenings we have planned for this year as part of our advocacy work to help raise awareness of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the role positive relationships play in buffering the impact of childhood adversity and toxic stress.
A unique aspect of our screenings is that we begin with a presentation to contextualise the content of the documentary. We follow with the screening itself and then facilitate a discussion with online break-out rooms to provide an opportunity for people to reflect on what they have seen and absorb the impact of the documentary on them.
Co-facilitated by Ag Eisteacht associate Dr Nicola O’ Sullivan and Sabrina Moris, our training coordinator and office administrator, this latest screening means that we have now shown the documentary to 625 practitioners to date.
Dr Nicola O’Sullivan said: “The students and staff are clearly well-informed about trauma and the impact of it, but what they really appreciated was the opportunity to come together in a safe space to watch the documentary and to think about how they might apply the principles of trauma-informed thinking in an education or social care setting.
”While the documentary may age, and information about trauma and brain science is constantly changing, something that never ages is the power of bringing people together in safe spaces to listen, reflect and debate so that knowledge is deepened and perspectives change.”
One of the key messages in the documentary is that supportive relationships make a difference to those who have experienced adversity – a powerful message of hope for this audience of students.
Another line in the documentary also resonated with participants: “It’s not what’s wrong with you, it’s what happened to you.”
“It’s a reminder that ACEs are about all of us,” said Nicola. “Keeping that in mind in the communities, systems and cultures we work in, so that we are mindful both of our own life experiences and those of the people we engage with. This inevitably leads to a more empathetic and relationship-centred approach in frontline practice, which in turn leads to better outcomes.
“Even if the students hold onto that one message and it invites them as future social care workers and early childhood professionals to look at themselves and others from a different perspective, then the screening has been worthwhile.
“We need to open up more spaces to think about trauma in the systems that students will potentially work in when they leave college, and even the trauma and the systems that they’re working in as students to invite them to develop further and make sense of what they are seeing; spaces where they can reflect on what drew them to this work and to imagine what it is like for a servicer user or parent/care giver. Imagine the difference this would make.”
The facilitated, reflective aspect of Ag Eisteacht’s screenings was warmly welcomed by Catherine Ann O’ Connell, lecturer at TUS, who commented: “Sometimes in our busyness it can be difficult to find time to connect and reflect as a community of practice. This screening and discussion allowed staff and students to consider important research in our understanding of how to work sensitively with people who have experienced trauma in their lives. It provided a rich and reflective space for us to come together as a group.”
Emma Aherne, programme coordinator of the Applied Social Care Work programme added: “Social care workers and students are increasingly developing their knowledge and skills in trauma-informed care as this essential way of working is being embedded in our system. I feel that the students being offered an opportunity to participate in this viewing and discussion in a safe space will promote and support the development of person-centred, trauma-aware and resilient social care practitioners. Thank you to everyone involved in this crucial project”.