WASHINGTON, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – A local school is working to end the stigma surrounding childhood trauma.

Jenilee Cousil, an art teacher at Washington High School, started the “Stigma Stoppers” club this year.

“It is a pressing issue and it’s also personal. I know and I love people that have struggled with substance disorder and so it’s just very close to my heart and something that I want to see a change in our community,” Counsil said.

She said the goal of the club is to help end the stigma around substance abuse, childhood trauma, and mental health, all subjects that can sometimes be hard to talk about.

Counsil said she and members of the club will have open conversations about these topics on a weekly basis, but wanted to do something bigger and open the doors up to the community.

That led her to create the event “Stop Judging, Start Healing” which will be open to the public and take place at the end of the month at the high school.

“We have peer recovery coaches coming in to do a Q&A, we have Dr. Counsil coming who will talk about ACES (adverse childhood experiences), and then we have two other people who are just going to talk about their personal stories struggling with a substance disorder. Our hope is that we can educate the community on how childhood trauma, aces, mental health, all fall together on the same category of substance disorder,” Counsil said.

According to a report put out by the Department of Child Services in August, Daviess County is ranked the worst in our region for child abuse cases.

Dr. Tyler Counsil works with Zero Abuse Project as the Child Advocacy Studies Director and will be speaking at the Stigma Stoppers event at the end of the month.

He said the Zero Abuse Project aims to end child abuse and neglect in all of its forms, so this event seemed like the perfect opportunity to further spread the word.

“We actually at zero abuse project work on training and education on obviously child maltreatment. So when we’re talking about stopping stigma, we’re talking about ending the situations where quite frankly our society at large and our communities, in general, are uncomfortable talking about these kinds of pressing social issues,” Dr. Counsil said.

Dr. Counsil also said the state of Indiana is 29th in the United States for child abuse for the third year in a row.

He said his hope is that an event like this will help kickstart the conversations that need to be had to end the stigma.

“We’re really trying to get people to be comfortable with those uncomfortable conversations, to really empower and educate them on what ACES’s looks like within their family, within their relationships and to really help them understand what they are and how we can prevent those and mitigate those so that our children can have a happy, healthy and productive life,” Dr. Counsil said.

“Stop Judging, Start Healing” will be held on October 26 in the Washington High School Auditorium and will begin at 6:30 p.m.

This event is open to the public and is free.