• Definitions and Information

    What is trauma?

    According to the American Psychological Association, trauma is a moderate to severe stress reaction to an event involving a death, threatened death, serous injury, or threat to the physical integrity of oneself or another (1). Trauma can potentially affect those who suffer injuries or loss, as well as survivors, rescue workers, friends and relatives close to a person involved in one of the above events.(2)

    A crisis is "an unstable situation of extreme danger or difficulty or a crucial stage or turning point in the course of something" (3). Trauma can begin during a crisis,and continue beyond the timeline of the actual crisis. Trauma can also be a reaction to a non-crisis event.

    SCASD district policies recommend that schools convene small Traumatic Events teams whose members are accustomed to working together. These teams must meet each year in August or early September to review plans to respond to potential traumatic situations.

    During an actual event, responsibilities for faculty/staff, administrators, counselors, and Traumatic Event Team members are outlined in the Traumatic Events Checklist. Sample letters and announcements for different types of events are accessible by clicking on the appropriate link. Helpful information for parents is provided on the link for parents.

    The importance of preparedness is evidenced by a few statistics:

    "By the time children complete high school, most will experience the death of a family member or friend, with 5% of children experiencing the death of a parent by 16 years of age. Nearly 40% will experience the death of a peer. Twenty percent will have witnessed a death." (4)

    With regard to suicide:

    * suicide is the third leading cause of death for children aged 10-19 (unintentional injury and homicide are the top two causes) (5)

    * suicide is the only cause of death to increase for 10-14-year-olds in recent years (5)

    * 14.5% of students in grades 9-12 seriously considered suicide in the previous 12 months (18.7% of females and 10.3% of males) (4)

    * 6.9% of students in grades 9-12 reported making at least one suicide attempt in the previous 12 months (9.3% of females and 4.6% of males) (4)

    * 2.0% of students in grades 9-12 reported making at least one suicide attempt in the previous 12 months that required medical attention (2.4% of females and 1.5% of males) (6)


    (1) American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV),4th ed. (Washington, D.C., American Psychiatric Association, 1994), p. 424.

    (2) About.com

    (3) WebsterOnline

    (4) Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement

    (5) Annual Summary of vital statistics: 2005 in Pediatrics,119, 345-360.

    (6) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Last Modified on December 14, 2023