Healing from Trauma
guide to understanding the impact of violent trauma on your loved ones and how
you can help them.
(This article is adapted from SAMHSA -- the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
United States, your odds of falling victim to violence at some point in your
lifetime are high. Even if you don’t encounter violence directly, chances are
that you know someone who has or will experience trauma. While a victim copes
with the direct impact of trauma, those close to the victim also struggle in
the aftermath. What do I say? What do I do? Why does my loved one seem so
brochure is intended to help you begin to understand what happens to many
victims of violent crime and what you might do to help them along the healing
Does Trauma Affect Survivors?
of violence often face a wide range of struggles. They often question what has
happened or what they may have done to cause or prevent it. Many wonder how
they will heal and why they cannot connect with their loved ones as they once
did. It is also common for survivors to feel anger or frustration as they
ponder whether they will ever feel “normal” again. While every survivor’s
experience is unique, violent trauma is almost always a life-changing
experience that can affect everything from one’s ability to sleep to his or her
ability to concentrate at work.
the nature and impact of trauma can be key to helping your loved one. Many
survivors find themselves in unfamiliar and distressing psychological
territory. It is common for them to endure intense feelings of isolation,
insecurity, and fear, and their most treasured relationships often suffer as a
result. Trauma can also lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which
may include both substance abuse and mental health problems.
Trauma, Substance Abuse, and Mental Health Concerns
victims turn to alcohol or other substances in an attempt to get some relief
from their emotional turmoil and suffering. All trauma survivors manage their
experiences in different ways. However, substance abuse is not only ineffective
in healing from trauma, but it also can present a host of additional problems
that make the healing process even more difficult.
is also a widely recognized catalyst for mental health concerns such as PTSD, a
condition that can be caused by experiencing or observing virtually any kind of
deep emotional or physical trauma. Millions of people in the United States
suffer from PTSD, resulting from many different types of trauma—from enduring
years of domestic violence to a single violent attack that lasts but a few seconds.
PTSD is characterized by both emotional and physical suffering; many afflicted
by it find themselves unintentionally revisiting their trauma through
flashbacks or nightmares. PTSD can make a survivor feel isolated, disconnected,
and “different” from other people, and it can even begin to affect the most
routine activities of everyday life. Psychologists and counselors with
experience in treating trauma survivors can be very helpful in working through
PTSD, and there are prescription drugs available to help ease PTSD symptoms.
PTSD is a potentially serious condition that should not be taken lightly.
to a recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the most
effective way to combat trauma, substance abuse, and mental health problems is
through an integrated, holistic approach, taking into account how each
individual problem affects the others. To begin, it can be helpful for a
survivor to share experiences and concerns with a service provider who can
assist in developing a plan to address these struggles comprehensively.
wonder how they will heal and why they cannot connect with their loved ones as
they once did.
Can I Do to Help My Loved One?
each individual’s experience is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all remedy
for victimized loved ones. For those who care about a person who has
experienced a violent trauma, finding ways to be helpful and maintaining a
healthy relationship can be challenging. Following are some tips to help your
loved one who has been victimized.
Listen. Talking about the experience, when
the survivor is ready, will help acknowledge and validate what has happened to
him or her and can reduce stress and feelings of isolation. Let your loved one
take the lead, and try not to jump in with too many comments or questions right
Research. If the victim wants more
information, would like to report a crime, or has other questions, you can help
find answers and resources.
Reassure. As strange as it may sound,
survivors often question whether an incident was their fault or what they could
have done to prevent the crime against them. They may need to hear that it was
not their fault and be assured that they are not alone.
Empower. Following trauma, victims can feel
as though much of their lives is beyond their control. Aiding them in
maintaining routines can be helpful, as can offering survivors options or
journey through the healing process is unique. Try to understand that it will
take time, and do what you can to be supportive. The healing process has no
Ask. Your loved one may need help with
any number of things or have questions on many different topics. Even a favor
as mundane as running a few errands or taking the dog for a walk can be a big
help, so consider lending a hand.
Can I Find More Information?
healing process takes time, and many questions, hurdles, and frustrations may
surface along the way.
you live in Santa Cruz and vicinity, you are welcome to call:
Strachan, Ph.D. at (831) 685-3100.
Mental Health Services Locator
National Mental Health
Toll-Free Substance Abuse
Treatment Referral Helpline
Substance Abuse Treatment
Justice provides an opportunity to connect with other survivors and experts
from a wide range of professional fields as well as access to timely and
pertinent information about trauma, mental health, and the healing and criminal