Le Bonheur, BRAIN Center offer free therapy for trauma patients and families

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Coping with trauma can be difficult at any age, but especially for children, and many families don’t have access to therapy and other mental health services.

When kids are released from Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, trauma staff say they’re often leaving with hidden, mental wounds that come from surviving a life-changing experience like a shooting.

“They are experiencing flashbacks of the event, loss of appetite, loss of sleep, and overall just heightened anxiety due to their bodies constantly being on high alert even days, months after the events have occurred,” said Dr. Kiersten Hawes, trauma mental health counselor.

In a new partnership with Le Bonheur, the BRAIN Center at the University of Memphis, and the Urban Child Institute, therapists offer free counseling sessions to trauma patients and their families.

“We’re attending to your physical health and your emotional health and wellbeing,” said Dr. Eraina Schauss with the BRAIN Center.

Therapists say they’ve completed more than 570 sessions since the program started in January.

“You can just see this sigh of relief because they have this safe space to discuss all these emotions that accompany this physical trauma or this life-altering event,” said Dr. Hawes.

Doctors say this program has the potential to reach more than 1,800 patients in a year, along with supporting parents who may be dealing with adverse childhood experiences themselves.

“We hope over the long term this going to help violence that comes as you get older,” said Dr. Regan Williams, trauma medical director at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. “We know mental illness is associated with violence, and so if we can address their mental health and support them, we can make a difference in these communities.”

Dr. Schauss said there is no limit on the number of sessions for patients and families so they can get as much support as they need.

The agency has funding through June from the Urban Child Institute, but they are applying for more grants.

To schedule a session or inquire about services, contact the Call Center at (901) 287-7337.

You can also email Kiersten.hawes@lebonheur.org.