What is Trauma?
- The American Psychological Association defines trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster”.
- Data shows that 60.7% of American males and 51.2% of females age 15 – 24 reported exposure to one or more traumatic events (Kessler et al., 1995).
- Traumatic events themselves can look very different from one another, as can the people who experience trauma. Even how individuals react to trauma can vary greatly, whether their responses be short- or long-term, mental or physical.
- Though the concept of trauma has been historically limited to more severely traumatic events (death of loved one, divorce, etc), other significantly stressful events may cause similar effects, adding strain on individual coping mechanisms.
Health Impacts of Trauma (SAMHSA, 2014)
- Difficulty regulating emotions
- Escapism via risky behaviors
- Depression, self-harm behaviors
- Social withdrawal
- Emotional numbing
- Alterations of cognitive patterns
- Disrupt and impact brain development (children)
- Somatic complaints
- Overexertion or overactivation of stress response
- Chronic stress
Families & Child Trauma
- Over 60% of Americans have experienced at least one adverse childhood event (ACE) and nearly 25% have experienced three or more (Merrick et al., 2018).
- How a family responds to the trauma may either negatively or positively impact how the child is able to effectively heal (Peterson, 2018).
- Ultimately, it is essential for behavioral healthcare providers to not only acknowledge the importance of the family in the treatment of child trauma but also to actually center the family unit in the treatment plan and services provided.
Culture & Trauma
- Cultural differences in how trauma is perceived may lead to conflicting perspectives between the child and/or family recovering from the traumatic event and the behavioral healthcare provider developing a treatment plan.
- In centering the patient voice in a trauma-informed care approach, a behavioral healthcare provider demonstrates cultural humility and empowers the patient to feel in control of their own recovery.
- Cultural humility is critical to work effectively with patients whose ethnocultural identity may drive their risk for or resilience against negative health impacts of trauma. Culture also may direct patients’ willingness to engage with help-seeking behavior and with treatment. Cultural competency, gained by working with cultural community leaders, is also a necessary arm of a culturally- and trauma-informed approach.