A PRODUCTIVE AND HAPPY LIFE
IS NOT SOMETHING YOU FIND;
IT IS SOMETHING YOU MAKE.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
BEHAVIORAL HEALTH & WELLNESS
In 2021, the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago completed our strategic planning process. One of the most important findings was the need to address staff health and wellness or to heal our healers. Thanks to a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, in 2022 we created a new Behavioral Health and Wellness program. This ambitious yet essential program has a dual purpose— to increase staff wellness and resiliency against the impact of trauma, which will in turn increase staff’s capacity to provide in-house behavioral health and wellness services directly to participants.
We strive to heal our courageous staff as they faithfully work to heal others.
"Trauma is much more widespread than we have acknowledged in the past. We have to make sure we’re getting services to our team like we haven’t done before. And that’s priority #1 – the wellness of the team."
–Sonny Garg, Nonviolence Chicago Board Member
Frontline workers at Nonviolence Chicago are effective at building relationships with those most affected by violence and mediating conflict because of their lived experience, knowledge of the community, and street credibility. They are from the very communities they serve, and many have been either victims of or lost someone close to them to gun violence. Their intimate knowledge of gun violence in the community makes them uniquely qualified to do critical violence prevention work.
They know the trauma community members are experiencing firsthand, and even though they have made changes toward a life of nonviolence, many of them still carry the weight of past trauma. Now in their professional roles, we ask them to continuously expose themselves to more trauma as they intervene in ongoing community violence.
"The transition from a warrior to a peacemaker is really dangerous"
Teny Gross, Executive Director
We ask our staff to work in potentially dangerous situations with high-risk individuals. We ask them to put their life on the line to prevent violence because they have been effective at doing so. All this has the potential to create anxiety and fear in the present and future. Some staff worry daily about getting hurt or shot on the job. As former Nonviolence Chicago participant and current Outreach Supervisor, James Mitchell, says about the impact his trauma has on him daily, “It’s hard doing this everyday…It’s crazy when you live it and you want to change it, but you got to keep reliving it. I don’t want to feel like this. I don’t want to keep having these images. I don’t want to keep getting angry.”
We have a moral responsibility to take care of James and all frontline workers — physically, emotionally, and mentally. We must address the continuous trauma that we ask them to risk exposure to as part of their work. At Nonviolence Chicago, we believe that we have an obligation to take care of them.
Kelly Carroll, LCSW
Behavioral Health & Wellness
Kelly Carroll has worked with survivors of trauma for well over 10 years in various clinical settings. She was most recently a trauma specialist at Chicago CRED where she trained staff in trauma-informed care practices and oversaw the development and implementation of a cognitive behavioral intervention designed to build resilience from trauma. Kelly lives in Portage Park with her husband and children. For fun, Kelly enjoys distance running, discovering new restaurants, and sunshine.
In response to our team’s needs, we have created a Behavioral Health and Wellness department led by trauma specialist Kelly Carroll. Kelly leads the development and implementation of supportive trauma services and interventions, both for staff and participants.
We are excited about this new program which addresses the health and wellness of our most valued assets—our frontline workers. We are also thrilled that our staff is very welcoming of it, as they are aware of their continuous trauma and are ready to start the healing process.
What Staff Say
We’re recovering from our own trauma while trying to save others. We're literally dealing with vicarious trauma on a daily basis. So have patience with us… If we continue to do this work, we will see the results we really want in the city of Chicago.
Nonviolence Chicago will continue to provide updates on our progress. Transparency around how we take care of our staff’s wellness is just as important as transparency around our program efficacy. We believe in this work because we believe in our staff—without them, the Civilian Architecture could not work. We have a responsibility to take care of them.
This is an in-depth program with multiple phases of implementation that will take place over the next three years. For more information on each year’s plan and update on our progress, click on the tabs above.
"The best thing we can do right now to increase our capacity to serve the community and reduce violence is to take better care of our staff. The healthier they are, the more effective they can be. And more importantly, it’s the right thing to do."
Kelly Carroll, Associate Director of Behavioral Health & Wellness