The old notion about professors living in an ivory tower is fading fast.
Suzette Fromm Reed, Ph.D., is bringing her expertise in Community Psychology to a forward-thinking Chicago neighborhood organization called the Resilient Belmont Cragin Community Collaborative. Fromm Reed, a researcher and associate professor, developed and formerly chaired National Louis University’s Community Psychology doctoral program.
Recently, Fromm Reed took part as U.S. Senator Dick Durbin visited the Resilient Belmont Cragin group to discuss how it is using a strategy called Community Resilience to help residents cope with difficulties resulting from Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
Fromm Reed has been working since about 2004 on the challenge of how to help people and communities heal from Adverse Childhood Experiences. ACEs include traumas such as experiencing physical, emotional or sexual abuse as a child, the death of divorce of a parent, having a parent incarcerated or having a parent with substance abuse. ACEs actually change an individual’s brain chemistry and reduce their capacity to cope with stressors.
Anyone may take this quiz to learn how many ACEs they have, as well as the resilience quiz to see how much resilience they have to heal from ACEs.
Research in Community Psychology showed community resilience–the feeling of knowing and being able to count on one’s neighbors and members of the community–is much more effective than individual resilience to help children and young people with ACEs do better in terms of mental health, physical health, school performance and healthy coping behaviors.
That ran counter to folk wisdom to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” and it helped Community Psychologists re-calibrate their thinking to focus on community resilience. Working together, a community can “pull up its members” more effectively.
Last year, Fromm Reed and NLU colleague Judith Kent, Ph.D., began working with the Resilient Belmont Cragin group in a pairing that lets the academic research meet the real world of a Northwest-side Chicago neighborhood. Belmont Cragin has seen its poverty rate double from 2000 to 2010 as people of modest means, including many immigrants, moved there to escape rising rents in gentrifying Logan Square and Humboldt Park.
As the psychologists work with the neighborhood leaders, the neighborhood leaders decided that so many residents have ACEs that they decided to embed resilience (the antidote to ACEs) in everything they do.
Since Resilient Belmont Cragin formed in January 2018, it has worked with school, health, mental health, police and business leaders in the community to site a health clinic open to the entire community at Steinmetz High School, train police to not re-traumatize residents and mentor at-risk youth of high school age. During Sen. Durbin’s visit, the group showed him the health clinic at Steinmetz High School and discussed the positive impact it was having.
James Rudyk is the director of the Northwest Side Housing Center, a nonprofit that spearheads the Resilient Belmont Cragin Community Collaborative. It has helped countless residents keep their homes.
”I think Suzette and Judy taught us that all the work we do is about resilience, but we never knew that because we’re not psychologists,” he said. “ACEs are seen as a psychological thing, but we decided that they impact our youth and communities so much that we embed resilience in all the work we do.”