The goal of World Trauma Day, which is observed on October 17, is to encourage empathy, resilience, and support for trauma survivors by spreading knowledge about the various ways that trauma can affect many.
The American Psychological Association describes trauma as an emotional response to an abnormal event, such as death, an accident, or a natural disaster.
The emotions linked to traumatic experiences can be enduring and can have a profound effect on one’s mental and physical well-being. Thus, offering support to a loved one who has endured a traumatic event demands both care and compassion.
Trauma-informed counselling psychologist based in Lucknow, Prachi Saxena Vaish, and Dr Vishal Sehgal, President of Portea Medical, and a member of the Association of Trauma Care in India, provide valuable insights around the subject:
What trauma looks like?
It is a common misconception that when someone encounters trauma, they will show symptoms of shock, immobility, despair, and misery and will always be able to pinpoint the trauma to a specific incident.
However, this assumption is false. Trauma can creep up on you over time, showing up unexpectedly and causing changes in your mood, level of arousal, and behaviour that may appear completely unrelated to any particular occurrence.
Making sense of trauma
Different people are affected by trauma in different ways. Trauma is about how a person perceives something, not what occurs to them. Because of this, two persons who witness the same incident may respond to it in quite different ways.
Regardless of their upbringing, many have probably dealt with trauma at some point in their lives. As a result, trauma is not just associated with grave traumatic experiences; what is traumatic for one person may not be for another.
The role of safety
Traumatic events often shatter an individual’s sense of safety, both in the world and within themselves. As caregivers, it is important to provide survivors with a sense of security and safety. This may involve creating a safe environment and offering the necessary resources, whether it is medical attention, legal support, or even counselling services.
The sensory experience connected to a traumatic incident may serve as a trigger for that occurrence. Flashbacks to the incident could be triggered by particular odours, tastes, or textures. Therefore, it is crucial to recognise these triggers and make an effort to reduce them when caring for a survivor.
Things to keep in mind as a caregiver
Being a caregiver for a trauma survivor can be both complex and challenging. It is essential to approach this role with kindness, patience, and a non-judgmental attitude. Providing survivors with a safe space to express their experiences, thoughts, and feelings without interruption or the immediate offer of solutions is crucial. Moreover, prioritising one’s own well-being is vital to prevent caregiver fatigue.
By acknowledging the varied ways in which trauma can manifest and taking a compassionate and informed approach, caregivers can contribute to the healing and recovery of those who have endured traumatic experiences.