What is trauma?
What causes trauma?
Unhelpful myths
How do we build resilience?
What can mental health professionals do to help?
What other resources are available?

What is psychological trauma?

Trauma is caused by an event or series of events that are outside a persons normal day to day experience and have the potential to cause or threaten death or serious injury. It is usually an event of such magnitude that it has the potential to overwhelm a persons normally effective coping mechanisms.

A person is potentially at risk of trauma if they experience, witness or are alerted to the event. Most people will experience intense reactions to such events. Most will also find these reactions settle within 2 weeks through self care and support from others who care.


The same event can strike some people more deeply than others. This is not a sign of weakness but evidence that it caught them off guard or has triggered previous life traumas.

It is vital that when symptoms do not settle within 2 weeks or significantly impair the persons ability to function that they are encouraged to seek help from a mental health professional.

What causes trauma?

Examples of potentially traumatic events (PTE’s) include experiencing, witnessing or being alerted to:

  • Actual death or serious injury
  • Threatened death or serious injury
  • Causing either of the above
  • Exposure to gruesome sights

The most common causes of trauma are motor vehicle accidents, sexual and physical assault.

What can mental health professionals do?

  • Screening & assessment
  • Psychological education
  • Evidence based counselling
  • Controlled breathing
  • Relaxation training
  • Medication or certain natural alternatives

Trauma affects our thinking, feeling, & behaviour, our physical health and our relationships. People who are traumatized cannot "snap out of it" and get it together. Unless addressed, symptoms can last for months or years and result in impaired functioning, relationship breakdown, health injuries, addiction, or suicide.

Treatment by mental health professionals greatly reduces and often eliminates these risks. It also increases resilience for the future.

How do we build resilience?

  • Talk with people who care
  • Learn resilient thinking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Problem solve vs. worrying
  • Healthy eating habits
  • Face rather than avoid fears
  • Make informed decision
  • Employ relaxation techniques

Unhelpful Myths

  • It’s a sign of personal weakness
  • It is best dealt with alone
  • Symptoms will go away if ignored
  • Alcohol or illicit drugs are a solution
  • We should build a bridge and get over it
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