Fifth Sunday of Lent – As we ‘die’, we will live
March 13, 2024
Georgetown celebrates 68th anniversary of establishment
March 13, 2024

Healing from trauma benefits the individual and community

By Fr Stephan Alexander

General Manager, CCSJ and AMMR


Several years ago, at the beginning of my formation journey toward becoming a priest, I had a conversation with Sr Julie Peters SSM. I had just arrived at the Sisters’ home in preparation for street ministry that evening.

Sr Julie asked how I was feeling. It had not been a particularly good day for me and desiring not to talk much, I retorted that it didn’t matter how or what I was feeling, only that I was there to work.

Her response was rapid and sharp as she suggested that I better sort out whatever was going on with me because if I did not, then the people of God would have to deal with my mess.

Her statement remained with me throughout my formation journey, and I still regularly revisit it when I am having difficult days or during periods when I reflect on how my words or actions have affected those around me.

As I continue to distil the essence of Sr Julie’s statement, I’m better able to understand that if I do not intentionally seek healing for my issues or traumas then I will easily, although unfortunately, walk around treating people as if they were the sources of my trauma.

This growing understanding is not limited to me since it is a reality for each person. Minaa B, a therapist, social worker, and author clearly indicates this in her book Owning Our Struggles: A Path to Healing and Finding Community in a Broken World. She states that if “trauma is untreated, it doesn’t impact only you – it impacts your children as well as your community.”

Her assertion underscores the interconnectedness of individual healing and societal well-being. Hence, we must tend to our traumas or society will suffer. It is in this context that Minaa B identifies healing as a social justice issue “because trauma impacts not only the individual but the family unit, our communities, and the social and economic structure of our country.”

In support of her position the author highlights research conducted by Michal Gilad and Abraham Gutman which identifies the social and economic costs of unhealed and untreated childhood trauma to the US economy in the sum of billions annually.

“When examining the snowball effect of childhood trauma and exposure to violence and crime, we must consider how trauma impacts a child’s overall health, including their intellectual health, which leads to issues like school absences, suspensions, and even expulsion, as well as the possibility of dropping out altogether as the child ages.

“Once academic scores suffer and a child’s intellectual health is stunted, their ability to secure a job or stable career is impacted, which affects not only the child but their families, community, and most important, society, by placing a financial burden on systems such as education, child welfare, social services, law enforcement, and so on.”

The immediate financial cost, though high, is nothing compared to the future cost to individuals, families and communities that results from unhealed and untreated traumas being passed on.

Gilad and Gutman’s research is particularly important in the context of increasing violence in T&T society. The National Parent Teacher Association statement on page 3 of The Catholic News Sunday, March 3–9, 2024 rightly highlights the ‘concerning trend’ of shootings affecting children.

Yes! Crime, violence, and poverty, which often is a catalyst for the former, are serious social justice issues and we must continue to fervently address them. However, what of the many children who are otherwise affected by violence or other forms of trauma such as bullying, having to pass a dead or wounded body on the way home, trying to engage with students or teachers who have lost loved ones to violence or those seeking to survive difficult home, family, or other toxic environments? They too deserve to be cared for and we must honour them by being our brother’s and sister’s keeper (Gen 4:9–10).

Minaa B’s work helps readers understand the social justice perspective of healing since it is firmly rooted in the application of key principles of Catholic Social Teaching [CST] such as the dignity of the human person and the common good. Additionally, her assertion is grounded in the understanding that systemic issues, such as inequality, discrimination, and social structures, can impact mental health and contribute to personal struggles.

By framing healing as a social justice issue, the author emphasises the importance of addressing the root causes of suffering and promoting equitable access to resources, support, and opportunities. She encourages a collective responsibility to create a society where individuals, regardless of background, can access the necessary tools for healing and well-being.

This approach must include changing policies and practices, creating better systems, and redesigning legislation that considers individuals who are most disadvantaged in the first place. In essence, Minaa B asserts that fostering a just and inclusive society is integral to promoting the healing of individuals and communities.

“Healing is not a destination. It is a journey that we embark on and navigate until we depart from this earth. We heal not just for ourselves but for the collective, it’s a pursuit that acknowledges the interconnectedness of our struggles with the challenges faced by our communities.”


The CCSJ asks for your support.

Please donate:

Catholic Commission for Social Justice

Account #: 290 458 025 501

Bank: Republic Bank Ltd.

or you can contact us at: