Building a resilient community for families in Bettws

One in four people suffer poor mental health – but it is not as random as this might suggest. Our mental health is largely determined by our circumstances not bad genetic luck

What do we mean when we say we’re taking a trauma-informed approach?

It is increasingly recognised that resilient, healthy children develop best in resilient, healthy families and communities. Sometimes children raised in households exposed to acute or chronic economic strain and have parents with mental health problems have been shown to experience a variety of negative mental health and anti-social outcomes Children are powerless to change their and their families lives – they are dependent on the adults around them. These ideas are central to the approach we take to family psychology and community development.

Trauma-informed community development understands that emotional health issues lead to poverty but people whose lives are full of trauma and adversity, including poverty, also disproportionately affected by emotional health issues or what some call mental illness. This means a focus should be put on creating the conditions that foster things like agency, security, connection, meaning and trust. The opposite of this is practice and relationships that cause, shame, humiliation, isolation, loneliness, fear and feelings of being trapped and powerless. This needs to be enacted within the parent-child relationship as well as how services treat people, their staff and reflected throughout all policy and practice too.

This understanding is the basis of the whole-family approach in the very early years that we are pioneering in Bettws.

There are some brilliant examples of developing practice in this area in Wales. For example, a number of Families First programmes integrate applied psychologists into their practice models. Our work for the Bettws Early Learning Community takes this approach a step further by creating space that draws together not only Families First and mental health colleagues but other crucial players such as the local schools, housing associations, local policing, health visitors, Flying Start workers, other relevant stakeholders who have influence over the conditions children and families live in and, of course, local residents – all of whom usually work in silos.

Shield Graphic

How does this change the system?

By creating space to get to know each other, our different ways of working, the Bettws Early Learning Community is allowing for the necessary conditions for whole family support to emerge. This is allowing for a more prudent use of resources and a plethora of perspectives to help highlight better solutions. It is beginning to allow better power sharing across sectors and with local families too.

Bettws ELC Trauma Informed Communities Pilot

Our focus will be to being to implement this kind of thinking and practice at a hyper-local level with parents of children under the age of 7 and with key stakeholders of Bettws.

We are co-developing a place-based approach to community wellbeing and resilience in Bettws using a three-part model:

  1. Enhancing community mental health understanding
  2. Developing meaning making, storytelling and collective action skills
  3. Reflecting, evaluating and sustaining

How we are learning

Through this model, this pilot project aims to improve children’s and parents’ mental health and wellbeing, and to develop integrated practices that are human-rights focused, non-violent, trauma-informed, community-led, healing and culturally sensitive.

The learning from this pilot will contribute to the evidence base for this field as well as inform future developments in practice both locally and nationally.

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