It’s been a moment since I last felt inspired to write something that I wanted to share with the world…. Over the summer I was involved in a couple personal incidents that left me a little worse for wear, which I needed time to recover from. I also started a masters, so the “spare” time I did previously have is now consumed with reading and writing essays!
Today I felt inspired to write, inspired to share with you all something I have developed on my journey of clinical understanding and managerial/leadership experience.
“A Banana Moment”
A banana moment is a moment where words fail us but we need to communicate that something is wrong… normally very wrong.
As simple as this sounds, this has been one of the most effective models of “trauma in-formed” work that I have used over the past couple of years. I am not even sure how it was developed, at this point in my career I am aware I could have possible stolen the idea from someone else and no longer remember, in which case I am sorry but I am pretty sure it is a some-what authentic “Whitney idea” although, there really isn’t anything new under the sun… I’m just going to take credit for it until someone tells me otherwise. *shrugs*
How it works: My mentees, students or staff members either:
- Ring me and say “Banana” – (rather than hello)
- Text/Whatsapp me the word “Banana”
- Text/Whatsapp me the banana emoji
As soon as I hear or see this, I know to drop what I am doing and give them my full attention. If I am unable to do that, I let them know but usually I will make contact within 20 minutes. (Note: I very rarely work in prisons or environments where I do not have my phone with me, which is why I can now do this).
The word banana is effective because it is part of a wider training model and trauma informed culture. Banana really could be any other word but it is effective because we all know what it means…. “help me”. Asking for help is something so many of us find difficult, even more so when we don’t know why we are asking for help or what help we are asking for. It also makes things much easier for me to understand because I am busy, so if someone calls me and starts talking, I then have to figure out what type of conversation this is and normally if things can wait, then they will. As soon as I hear banana or see the emoji, I know exactly what the deal is. I know how to respond and what to expect, it puts me in the right frame of mind to contain whatever the emotions are on the other end of the phone. It’s my version of 999. A trauma emergency.
Now let me make this clear, when I say ask for help, I don’t mean people are calling me asking how to do a piece of work or what to do with a particular young person. I mean the shit has hit the fan, something is wrong internally and they need help to contain overwhelming emotions. This is trauma work. This is “I’ve just had a young person stabbed in front of me, I’ve done all the practical work but now I am falling apart” type of work, or the “I worked with the young person who killed someone I know today and I can’t stop crying, what is wrong with me” type of work….and the “I don’t know what really did it but I have been triggered or something doesn’t feel right in my head, I can’t explain it but my body won’t stop shaking” type of work. This is the “help me” no-one seems to really talk about, why the hell aren’t we doing more to support our front line workers, type of work.
I feel like this is something that we need to discuss more. I wanted to share because for me the ‘Banana Moment’ has been a great tool that has allowed me to connect and support others in a time of need. I don’t share to shock you or receive any kind of praise, just to raise awareness of the things I experience and how I have developed ways of dealing with them. The “Banana Moment” for me, is something I feel has benefited those around me (and me), so maybe another CEO or person in a leadership position could take/learn from it.
I would say, to be an effective “banana moment” container you should be taking part in clinical supervision and developing your own clinical understanding via training because you do need to be able to contain strong emotions in a safe and secure way, that is what makes the process work.
I don’t know what others in the sector are doing in relation to the trauma held and experience by front line practitioners, ESPECIALLY those who have their own previous and/or current experiences of violence and/or trauma but if you are doing something around this, please share and let’s develop a dialogue.
Now I am aware it’s 10.30pm on a Thursday night and I am so very tired so this post could just be a load of random words on a page that don’t make much sense, in which case I will edit or delete at the weekend. Hopefully though, this has made at least a little sense and will encourage a more open dialogue about the needs of practitioners in the youth violence sector and ways we can create a more trauma in-formed culture.
Like always (and a phrase stolen from The Tarton Con) this is just my opinion, I could be wrong.
Yes I am aware that rhymed. I am going to bed now.