2017-08-02 / Opinion

IN MY OPINION

Coping with trauma
BY WIL MORRIS
Executive Director Sanilac Community Mental Health

Over the past week, I have been racking my brain on what topic I would like to discuss. In the world of mental health there are a lot of pressing issues in society today. Then on my way to the office earlier this week I had two baby deer run out in front of my car and I unfortunately hit them. This event clarified for me the topic of today’s column which is “Trauma”.

When you ask yourselves and the people we love what causes trauma you will get a laundry list of different events from each person you talk to. There are some items that universally we all agree cause trauma, like being a victim of abuse or neglect, a death or illness of a loved one, and significant life changes. On the other hand, I know people who would have considered hitting the two baby deer to be extremely traumatic and would not have been able to continue with their day. I also know folks who would have no issue with it at all other than the damage to their vehicle.

The important thing to remember is that everyone is different. We all experience trauma for different things and at different levels. Some of us become very quiet and withdrawn, others become angry and aggressive, and still others may look to their friends and family for support or direction. That being said, when we are talking to someone who has experienced a traumatic event it is important to remember that we need to look at the event from that person’s perspective and whether or not they were impacted by that event. The number one thing individuals who have experienced trauma need is support and for us to listen without judgment to their experience and how it affected them. Too often our desire is to eliminate the trauma and try to make things better for our loved ones. We do this by typically minimizing the event or the trauma our loved ones experienced. For example, if our child had their first break up our response typically is that they are better off without that person, or we remind our child that they will have several more relationships in their life. This approach does not help our child reduce their experience of trauma but in effect minimizes their feelings. The most beneficial way of addressing this is to listen to our child and provide them support in the way they feel. Validating their feelings and empathizing with them on how we understand their experience was hard and sad assists them with processing their trauma to be more able to move forward in the future. So, in essence, as a society, we need to be good listeners and understand that everyone is entitled to their feelings and are better able to move beyond their trauma with support and encouragement.

We at Sanilac CMH have worked hard over the past year to enhance our understanding and treatment of trauma for the residents of Sanilac County. Currently, we offer Trauma groups for adults and also offer Trauma specific treatment for children. Additionally, we are working on our understanding of trauma and how treating individuals with trauma may affect our staff and how to assist our staff with dealing with that trauma. In conclusion, remember we all experience trauma for different things at different levels. The important thing is to listen to our loved ones who discuss their trauma and help them understand how it affects them. In some instances we may need to encourage them to seek additional help in coping with their trauma.

Thank you and have a wonderful, hopefully trauma free day.

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