Thursday, 27 September 2018 14:27

Collaborative program explores post-Harvey trauma in children

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Mayor Sylvester Turner joined Houston mental health and education leaders today to announce “Community Conversations: Harvey, Trauma and Helping Our Kids Cope,” a series of neighborhood meetings for parents, students, community members, educators and clinicians to discuss gaps in mental health services for children so local advocates can work together to create community-based solutions.

A collaboration among UNICEF USA, the Center for School Behavioral Health at Mental Health America of Greater Houston and the Mayor’s Office of Education, these community conversations will be held in each City Council district in coming months.

Trauma typically peaks 18 months after a natural disaster and can last for two to five years. Having worked closely with Juliet Stipeche, director of the Mayor’s Office of Education, Turner said that the city heard from teachers and school-based mental health professionals that trauma is impeding success in the classroom for many students and that more needs to be done to address it.

“During the past year I’ve continually emphasized the importance of helping the city become more resilient. Helping children recover from the trauma and stress of Hurricane Harvey is an important element of this effort,” said Turner. “Since many of these children have experienced various types of trauma even before the storm, what we learn from these community conversations will help us build back from Harvey but also build forward to ensure we have healthy minds in our classrooms.”

The City of Houston is collaborating with MHA of Greater Houston on this effort because the non-profit, through its Center for School Behavioral Health, coordinates among local mental health providers and school districts to provide training for teachers in identifying and addressing signs of trauma among students in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Made possible through a grant from UNICEF USA, this work includes bi-monthly gatherings facilitated by MHA of Greater Houston with 30 greater Houston area school and charter districts and 100 organizations that serve children. 

“Research has shown that more than two-thirds of children report at least one traumatic event by age 16. Because of Harvey, many local youth now have had multiple childhood traumatic events,” said Janet Pozmantier, director of the Center for School Behavioral Health. “It’s crucial that we take the time now to connect with important stakeholders in the community to learn about specific gaps in mental health services to effectively advocate for and develop beneficial resources.”

Pozmantier added that during the “Community Conversations,” experts will discuss signs and symptoms of trauma. However, their greatest interest is in hearing first-hand from the public about the social and emotional challenges that are affecting children and any difficulty they are having finding resources to address those challenges. 

About the Collaboration
Mental Health America of Greater Houston was awarded a grant from UNICEF USA after Hurricane Harvey for its Center for School Behavioral Health to lead mental health emergency response efforts for children. Through this effort, which continues today, Mental Health America of Greater Houston has provided trainings for educators, psychosocial education for children and coordination between local mental health providers and school districts to help students regain their emotional well-being after the storm. For more information visit


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