By Kirby L. Wycoff and Meredith Matone, Journal of Adolescent Health, August 2019
In a global political climate that is characterized by increased use of both polarizing rhetoric and policy proposals across the political spectrum, there has been escalating concern about a deprioritization of women's health care and reproductive rights. Current social and political events have elevated the need for focused attention on the well-being of vulnerable adolescents. Recent policies that restrict access to family planning and reproductive health care and marginalize gender and sexual minority persons as well as a public political discourse that deliberates the response to sexual assault in the wake of high-profile events including the resignations and contentious appointment process of members of government, the clergy abuse scandal, and revelations of abuse among collegiate and Olympic athletes warrant reflection using a trauma-informed lens.
To appreciate the impact of systems theory in public health, one has only to consider recent political events to recognize that what happens at a macro-level exerts influence at a micro-level. As an example, complex topics such as sexual trauma, victimization, and misogyny were thrust into the spotlight during the 2018 Supreme Court confirmation hearings. What played out live in front of the Senate Judicial Committee is debated in an endless cycle of media coverage and trickles down to school classrooms, family dinner tables, carpool lines, and clinical office settings . In times like these, adolescents and young adults, particularly those who also have a history of trauma, are at high risk of being negatively impacted by a public dialog defined by polarization and uncertainty.
How, then, does a provider taking care of adolescent and young adult women operate in such a complex political and social climate? This commentary highlights strategies to provide trauma-informed services within a resilience-focused framework when providing health care to youth within the context of our current larger sociopolitical environment.