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At JAVĿ¼, TIG is Creating an “Infrastructure of Support”

October 27, 2023

In fall 2022, JAVĿ¼ joined the Consortium on Trauma, Illness, & Grief (TIG), a trauma response program that helps institutions effectively respond to challenges facing students and campuses more broadly. One year later, JAVĿ¼ has nearly doubled the number of employees trained in crisis response skills, and has the largest higher education team regionally.

Known to be highly effective in K-12 settings, the TIG curriculum is designed to provide school employees with evidence-based crisis response skills. The TIG in Higher Education initiative—a partnership with the Upstate New York College Collaboration (UNYCC) and Coordinated Care Services, Inc., (CCSI), the organization that delivers the program—aims to replicate the model on college and university campuses. The initiative launched in spring 2022, and JAVĿ¼ was among just six institutions to join the pilot program.

Each of the six pilot higher education institutions designated a team who participated in a 40-hour training series. The approach is based on a trauma-informed response model that goes beyond questioning and teaches the participants how to be aware of trauma, illness, and grief on a larger scale. The modules include grief and loss, trauma, suicide risk and intervention, chronic and acute illness, school violence, TIG implementation, and Critical Incident Stress Management.

“TIG has helped prepare JAVĿ¼ to respond to situations that could occur on campus in a trauma-informed way that supports the community as a whole,” said Rebecca Kieffer, director of JAVĿ¼’s Health and Wellness Center.

In the last year, Kieffer said TIG has been a part of the response following the loss of campus community members, and has assisted with groups of students and employees.

Sarah Mancini-Goebert, assistant director of campus ministry, was on the inaugural team of JAVĿ¼ employees to participate in the TIG training.

Trauma, illness, and grief are difficult realities of life that everyone deals with at one point or another. Campus Ministry is a natural place for people who are experiencing these realities to seek comfort and support. Being a part of the TIG team made sense for my role on campus and I was eager to be better equipped to help students and our campus community in times of need,” she said.

TIG training is focused on helping the broader institutional community navigate through significant events on campus, and Mancini-Goebert said that when TIG has been activated on campus, it has created the space for individuals to come together to begin the healing process.

“TIG is incredibly impactful when utilized. One simple and powerful benefit has been the sense of community that has blossomed because of TIG intervention,” Mancini-Goebert said. “Part of the model is to remind those impacted of the resources they have around them, to encourage them to seek out those resources, and to normalize the emotions they may be experiencing. In these situations, it has been so hopeful to see students, faculty, and staff supporting one another through painful conversations and experiences.”

JAVĿ¼’s goal for TIG is to continue growing the team of employees trained in the model and create a larger culture of trauma-informed response. At the moment, the University is the only higher education institution to have a faculty member on its TIG team.

“This is a University-wide initiative, so representation across campus is important,” Kieffer said.

To that end, this fall JAVĿ¼ launched its second cohort of TIG trainees. Among them is Chris Keffer, senior career and academic planning advisor in the Center for Career and Academic Planning. In his day-to-day role helping students achieve their academic and career goals, Keffer has seen how mental health, for example, can impact overall wellness and student success.  

“Students are experiencing symptoms indicative of mental health struggles more frequently and acutely than I recall seeing in the past. They’re also more open about these issues than they have ever been,” he said. “The training is helping me move what I understand about supporting individuals in crisis – and hopefully addressing things before they reach that stage – toward building structures and policies that may limit the incidence of serious mental health crisis and be more effective in our coordinated response to individual and group needs.”

Keffer said that the creation of an “infrastructure of support” and the increase in informed voices that are sensitive to short and long-term crisis intervention and the mental health needs of campus is a key benefit of TIG.

“Having a ‘playbook’ of evidenced-based practices to help support the campus through a crisis is a thoughtful and efficient use of resources,” he said. “Trauma, illness, and grief may be present anywhere. Supporting others through their experience is labor intensive and can be emotionally draining. It will never be light work, but having more employees trained in this responsibility, across all areas of our campus, increases access to help, contributes to campus efforts to destigmatize mental health, and helps distribute the weight of this work. Shouldn’t that lead to a healthier community for all?”

The inaugural TIG team includes Becky Kieffer (co-lead), Meg Flaherty (co-lead), Terri Travaglini, Dave Graupman, Dr. Michelle Erklenz-Watts, Brock Glann, Dr. Susie Hildenbrand, Sarah Mancini-Gobert, and Kate Torok. The current cohort in the training includes Dr. Heather McGrane Minton, Hannah Olearnick, Chris Keffer, Chelsea Marshall, Jillian Anzalone-Burgette, Kristine Jovenitti, and Dr. Ozge Kantas Yorulmazlar.

The TIG team can be activated to attend to a range of situations. To learn more, email Becky Kieffer at rkeiffer@sjf.edu or Meg Flaherty at mflaherty@sjf.edu.