Sunnybrook launches new BRAVE (Breaking the Cycle of Violence with Empathy) Program

October 7, 2020

This week Sunnybrook’s Tory Trauma Program enrolled the first patients in its new BRAVE (Breaking the Cycle of Violence with Empathy) Program, which promotes positive alternatives to violence in order to reduce retaliation, criminal involvement, and re-injury among youth injured by violence. BRAVE was developed by the Tory Trauma Program and Sunnybrook’s Centre for Injury Prevention as an intervention for patients treated at Sunnybrook for a gun or stabbing related injury.

BRAVE is the first program of its kind at a Canadian trauma centre. Using a public health approach to violence prevention, it looks at risk factors associated with violent injury, such as limited education, lack of job opportunities, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance misuse, and aims to address those in collaboration with the patient.

“BRAVE provides us with a unique opportunity to meet with youth and support them in the hospital and as they return to their communities,” says Michael Lewis, case manager for BRAVE. “Most importantly, it will promote open and consistent communication between large and small organizations in order to provide essential services to those in dire need of direction and support.”

The Tory Trauma Program at Sunnybrook has seen an increase in violent injury patients in recent years, which now account for approximately 17% of all trauma patients, or over 350 patients a year. In 2020, BRAVE received funding from the City of Toronto for a one-year pilot in the amount of $100,000. BRAVE complements the parallel initiatives undertaken by the City's Youth Development Unit to reduce youth violence.

“With increasing frequency, we are seeing patients return many times to the trauma bay with injuries due to firearms. With BRAVE, we imagined a way to go further than just their care in hospital, ideally interrupting the pattern of violence and changing a young person’s trajectory,” says Dr. Avery Nathens, surgeon-in-chief at Sunnybrook. “Approaches like this have been used successfully in the United States, and we are hopeful this will make a difference for our population by reducing the risk of re-injury.”

Prevention is a key part of trauma care and BRAVE works in tandem with Sunnybrook’s broader efforts to prevent traumatic injury. It offers a comprehensive response, building connections with patients and then linking them with resources like youth justice programs, mental health support, and youth development services to increase protective factors against violence.

The work of BRAVE won’t end when patients leave the hospital as it is a longer-term intervention. It will draw on the Sunnybrook team to support and empower each patient in a holistic way as they embark on their individual recovery journey.

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Please contact Laura Bristow, communications advisor, 416-480-4040