BRAIN CENTER Partners with Le Bonheur
Providing mental health counseling to trauma patients and their families

Beginning January 2021, the BRAIN CENTER at the University of Memphis entered a new and exciting partnership with Le Bonheur Hospital Trauma Center. Under the direction of Dr. Eraina Schauss, the BRAIN CENTER at the University of Memphis has established a new Trauma Mental Health Counseling Division within the regions sole Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center located at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. Through generous funding from the Urban Child Institute, the project: Fostering Resilience and Well-being in the Pediatric Trauma Population: Counseling Interventions for an At-Risk Population, University of Memphis students in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling graduate programs and newly hired, BRAIN CENTER clinical director of Trauma Services, Kiersten Hawes will be providing extensive and ongoing mental health counseling services for children and families treated at the Trauma Center entirely free of charge.

Beyond the debilitating effects of the disease, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused social isolation and economic instability leading to unprecedented rises in reported mental health symptoms, historic numbers of juvenile homicides and domestic and child abuse within the Memphis community. According to CDC nationwide statistics, the proportion of children who arrived in emergency departments due to mental health-related concerns rose 24% in 2020 compared to 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, that number was substantially higher among adolescents and preteens coming in at 31% nationally. Le Bonheur is just one of many hospitals nationwide seeing increased cases of severe depression and suicidal ideation particularly in the pediatric population.

In 2020, Dr. Regan Williams, medical director of Trauma Services at Le Bonheur Hospital, noted the precipitous rise in the pediatric gunshot wound victims she was treating in the emergency room. The link between the rise child gunshot victims and the COVID-19 pandemic is no coincidence, given the rise in community violence and increased stress in the home. With a majority of local schools closed, many children now are vulnerable to, and become victims of, the increased violence around them. Dr. Williams and her colleagues in the Trauma Center recognize the enormous need to heal the emotional wounds in addition to the physical wounds caused by trauma. Prior to this new partnership, Le Bonheur Hospital had not been providing mental health counseling services as part of integrated patient and family care for trauma patients. The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the critical need and increased demand for intensive mental health counseling services for both children and families experiencing trauma and has highlighted access to care issues that have long-plagued healthcare systems. Through this effort Le Bonheur Hospital will be addressing the holistic, integrated and often complex needs of each patient and family receiving services at their facility.

Fulfilling the driven by doing mission of the University of Memphis, the BRAIN CENTER students, faculty and staff are thrilled to be providing these critical mental health counseling services to children and families in our community at a time when they need it most.

For more information on this initiative, contact Schauss at eschauss@memphis.edu