Skip to main content ConnectSubgroupsMental Health and Well-Being

Mental Health and Well-Being

This group serves as a community of practice for Extension personnel and their community partners who share a commitment to improving mental health through a focus on social and emotional well-being. Members are encouraged to create blog posts, publicize upcoming events, share resources, and engage with other members on issues of common interest.

Trauma-Informed Conversations in Extension Education


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines Individual trauma as resulting from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual's functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being. (SAMHSA, 2022). Sundborg (2019) describes that the purpose of a trauma-informed care approach is to help the individual feel like they are gaining back control and is not inadvertently retraumatizing an individual. Ranjbar et al.  (2020) explain trauma-informed care as "a strength-based approach to caring for individuals mindfully, with compassion and clarity regarding boundaries and expectations".

Trauma-informed practices enable us to create safe and nurturing environments where individuals feel respected, supported, and empowered to learn and grow. By incorporating trauma-informed approaches into our work, extension educators can help break down barriers to learning and provide the necessary support for individuals by:

  1. Understanding that trauma lies in the eyes of the beholder and that the reason they are seeking knowledge or professional development will not impact the way mental health education is imparted and the individual’s learning needs are met.
  2. Preventing re-traumatization through non-judgmental listening and not compelling the recounting of the event.
  3. Being aware that all extension education is designed to be non-intrusive and only encourages by providing information about authentic and accessible mental health resources.

In general, a trauma-informed conversation is a way of engaging with someone that takes into account the potential impact of past trauma on their present experiences and behaviors. Here are some key principles:

  1. Safety: Prioritize creating a safe environment physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Ensure the person feels comfortable and respected.
  2. Trustworthiness and Transparency: Be honest and transparent in your communication. Establish trust by being reliable and consistent.
  3. Empowerment and Collaboration: Allow the person to have agency and control in the conversation. Collaborate with them rather than imposing decisions or solutions.
  4. Cultural, Historical, and Gender Sensitivity: Be aware of and respectful towards cultural, historical, and gender differences that may influence the person's experience of trauma.
  5. Resilience and Recovery: Recognize and support the person's strengths and resilience. Encourage a focus on growth and recovery rather than just on past trauma.
  6. Flexibility and Responsiveness: Be flexible in your approach, adapting to the person's needs and preferences. Respond to cues and feedback from the person throughout the conversation.

Example Trauma Informed Conversation:

Participant Question: ‘What do you do when your spouse of 50 years wants a divorce because your 95 years old mother has moved in and needs constant care?”

Extension educator’s response:

  1. Move closer to the participant.
  2. Take a deep breath, manage your emotions and put aside your reflex judgments about all three individuals involved.
  3. Establish eye contact.
  4. Trauma-informed response: “I am so sorry that this is happening to you.” “Let’s consider how in the future you can self-care through the stress”.
  5. Re-Traumatizing response: “Your spouse must be feeling ignored and very upset with you and your mother”.

As Extension educators, we are in the position to be trauma-informed caregivers for those who seek knowledge and support. It's a profound responsibility but also an incredible opportunity to make a positive impact on individuals and communities. By embodying empathy, understanding, and a commitment to be trauma-informed when educating, we can truly become beacons of hope and guidance.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2022). Trauma and violence. Retrieved from, May 16 2024.

Sundborg S. A. (2019). Knowledge, principal support, self-efficacy, and beliefs predict commitment to trauma-informed care. Psychological trauma : theory, research, practice and policy, 11(2), 224–231.

Ranjbar, N., Erb, M., Mohammad, O., & Moreno, F. A. (2020). Trauma-Informed Care and Cultural Humility in the Mental Health Care of People From Minoritized Communities. Focus (American Psychiatric Publishing), 18(1), 8–15.

Add Comment

Comments (0)


About the Extension Foundation

This website is supported in part by New Technologies for Ag Extension (funding opportunity no. USDA-NIFA-OP-010186), grant no. 2023-41595-41325 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Extension Foundation. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of use at

Link copied to your clipboard.