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Trauma 101



What is trauma? 


Life is full of twists and turns, some of which can be shocking and scary. When we or someone close to us experiences an event that threatens physical or emotional safety, our bodies might go into a stress response, a normal reaction to out-of-the-ordinary experiences. 


Trauma describes those experiences in life and the impact they can have. A single-event trauma, like a natural disaster, assault or accident, can overwhelm the body's natural response to stress and make it difficult to cope with daily life. 


Multiple traumatic events, like domestic and family violence, abuse, bullying and neglect, can lead to complex trauma, which you can read about in more detail here.


Everybody responds differently to trauma. Our personal history, age, culture, gender, family and social life all play a role in making sense of hardships. It's important to acknowledge that a traumatic event doesn't lead to post-traumatic stress for everyone. 


After experiencing a traumatic event, it's normal for people to experience the following symptoms: 


Initial symptoms


  • shock 

  • guilt

  • anger

  • fear

  • helplessness

  • sleeping troubles, including nightmares

  • difficulties with daily life, like going to school or work

  • headaches and dizziness 

  • upset stomach 

  • being easily startled 

  • changes in appetite


In many cases, with some time and support, coping with a traumatic event gets much easier. However, some people find that their symptoms continue or get worse. 


Reoccurring symptoms


  • fear of reoccurrence 

  • dreams, flashbacks and frequent thoughts about the event

  • mood swings

  • anxiety and depression 

  • avoiding people, places or anything that will trigger a memory about the event

  • feeling disconnected from people and the world

  • substance use 

  • changes to beliefs about oneself and the world 

  • post-traumatic stress disorder 


Post-traumatic stress, or PTSD, is diagnosed by an appropriately qualified mental health professional when a person experiences ongoing trauma symptoms. Experiencing trauma and being diagnosed with PTSD is painful, but rest assured, it's possible to live free of the symptoms mentioned above. 


There are many ways to look after yourself if you've been through trauma: getting enough sleep, moving your body and connecting with loved ones can really help. However, if you find yourself experiencing ongoing distress, seeking professional help is an important thing to consider. 


We've put together a list of resources to help you find the right support for you.


Face to face mental health support 


👉🏼 Check out the face to face support slides on Anxiety 101 to learn about how to get a mental health care plan through your GP, the role of different mental health professionals and types of therapy. 

👉🏼  Trauma support directory is a national database of mental health professionals specialising in trauma. 

👉🏼  Act for Kids is a national support service for young people with a history or current experience of trauma. 

👉🏼  Bravehearts offer counselling, information and referral to young survivors of sexual assault. 

👉🏼  Elm Place is the home of support services for people whose lives have been affected by out-of-home care. 

👉🏼  STARTTS supports young people who are living with refugee trauma. 


Digital mental health support 


📱 Griefline 1300-845-745 offers telephone support, an online community and support groups for people coping with the loss of a loved one.

📱 Blue Knot 1300-657-380 supports adult survivors of childhood trauma and abuse through their helpline. 

📱 Beyond Blue has a trauma and PTSD online community where you can connect with people going through similar experiences. 

📱 This Way Up offers an online treatment program for people living with PTSD. 

📱 mentalhealthonline also runs an online PTSD program. 

📱 Check out the digital support slides on Anxiety 101 to learn about different kinds of digital support and telehealth. 



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