'What Happened To You?' A Western Massachusetts County Takes On Trauma

Berkshire County in Massachusetts might evoke images of beautiful rolling hills and world-renowned arts venues. And that’s all real. But a group of locals are recognizing a more worrisome aspect of the region: the trauma that many residents live with.

The campaign called "Trauma-Informed Berkshires" joins a national trend of communities that preach awareness, empathy, and patience in the face of severe economic, social, and psychological stress.

Our five-part reporting series looks at this county's overall effort to become trauma-informed across institutions -- from schools and police to libraries and arts groups. It also focuses on several individual people and organizations trying to create change in their own small circles.

Support for this project includes a grant from WHYY in Philadelphia, which receives funding from the Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation.

The Tarjick family of Cheshire, Massachusetts.
Karen Brown / NEPR

On a recent afternoon, a half dozen kids — from age two to 16 — were bustling around the Cheshire, Massachusetts, home of Missy and Dave Tarjick, their adoptive parents.

Teacher Jessica Pollard at Lee Elementary School leads her class in a mindfulness exercise.
Karen Brown / NEPR

Other than its bucolic setting in the Berkshire mountains, Lee Elementary seems like any other public school.

Police officer Darren Derby in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, gets to know area school children.
Karen Brown / NEPR

When I asked the leaders of the "Trauma-Informed Berkshires" campaign which police officer has come closest to their key goal — understanding the effects of trauma in the community — they all pointed me to one person: Darren Derby. 

Therapist Cate Wolff leads a trauma-sensitive yoga class in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Karen Brown / NEPR

A half-dozen yoga students were kneeling on their mats, breathing in, breathing out, in an historic, high-ceilinged second floor studio in downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Children's shoes are displayed at Pittsfield, Massachusetts, press conference on child abuse awareness.
Karen Brown / NEPR

The people working on the "Trauma-Informed Berkshires" campaign have learned to explain their goals succinctly and consistently.