By Cooper Levey-Baker, Sarasota, December 19, 2019
Mimi Graham has spent her life fighting for kids. She began her career in the late 1970s as a Head Start administrator before moving into the world of academia to study child development and advocate for public policies that improve the health of mothers and children. Today, she’s the director of Florida State University’s Center for Prevention & Early Intervention Policy, a position in which she advises government agencies and nonprofits all around the state, including Sarasota. Her unsettling research documents the damage that trauma and toxic stress do to young children’s brains—and how it can haunt them for the rest of their lives.
“Trauma” is a word we’re hearing a lot these days. How do you define it?
Trauma can be an event, like a hurricane. After Hurricane Michael in 2018, I was asked to come to Panama City because kids were hiding under their desks when there was thunder outside. Or after 9/11, we had kids who would build block towers and then crash planes into them, trying to make sense of what happened. Trauma can also be ongoing, like physical or sexual abuse.