When Lori Desautels talks about a person’s emotional center, she talks about it as a flame.

Everyone has one, she told a crowd of about 450 educators at Thursday’s Educating the Whole Child Summit in Bloomington. She held up a small lighter to demonstrate: If you run your finger through the flame quickly, you don’t get burned.

“I can easily move through that center,” said the Butler University educator. However, “If I can’t move through it, and my finger stays in that flame, I am stuck. And if you look at the statistics of our students today, they are stuck in that trauma. And that adversity, and that trauma, affects their bodies and their brains. So what can we do?”

That was the central question of the two-day summit at the Monroe Convention Center Wednesday and Thursday. The summit puts social and emotional learning in the spotlight, arguing that students can’t learn effectively if their social and emotional needs aren’t being met. Students need to feel safe, supported and secure not just at school, but in other areas of their lives.

The goal of the summit was to help educators address those needs, providing a chance to network and share best practices in order to increase their care efforts within their own schools, districts and communities.

About one in five Indiana students seriously considered suicide in 2015 — the third highest rate in the nation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization recognizes depression as a significant global health risk, and plenty of Indiana families are contending with the challenges of low wages or outright poverty.

© 2019 HeraldTimesOnline, Bloomington, IN