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What is Trauma?

Trauma is the experience of severe psychological distress following any terrible or life-threatening one-time, multiple, or long-lasting repetitive events. Up to three quarters of the population is likely to experience at least one potentially traumatic event during their lifetime.

Everyone processes a traumatic event differently. This is because we all face a traumatic event through the lens of prior experiences in our lives. For some people, a traumatic event can lead to mental health issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug use, as well as impacting on relationships with family and friends and at work.

Impact of Trauma on Indigenous & Refugee Communities

In 2018–19, 31% of Aboriginal and 23% of Torres Strait Islander survey respondents aged 18 years and over reported high or very high levels of psychological distress. Massacres, exclusion, colonial law, stolen generation and white privilege have left our indigenous population dealing with the effects of PTSD not just as individuals, but in an intergenerational way. We’re talking about more than the psychological trauma of an individual, which is a challenge in itself, but the trauma that runs across generations.

Many refugee and asylum seeker groups are also vulnerable to mental health issues. In one study in a government-funded Refugee Health Service (located in a high settlement area for refugees and asylum seekers) the vast majority of survey participants (92.5%) reported having experienced a traumatic event, with 22.9% screening positive for PTSD in the previous month and 31.3% screening positive for PTSD in their lifetime. The combined prevalence rate of mental illness over the past month in the survey respondents was 51.1%.

Impact of Trauma on Service Providers

Service providers, including health care professionals and educators, can be ill-equipped to deal with continual exposure to trauma. We hear the term vicarious trauma or secondary trauma, yet trauma is trauma and the effects of this should not be underestimated. A health care professional’s trauma response develops over time, as they are continually exposed to their clients’ traumatic experiences. The impact of traumatic stress causes mental, physical and emotional issues for health care professionals that include burnout and decreased self-worth.

Trauma intervention is not one-size-fits-all and must be adapted to address different individuals, cultures and symptoms. Intervention methods such as Clinical EFT, provide the opportunity for the processing of trauma-related memories and allow growth towards more adaptive psychological functioning. Trauma intervention helps to develop positive coping instead of negative coping and allows the individual to integrate upsetting and distressing material (thoughts, feelings and memories) and to resolve these internally. It also aids in the growth of personal skills like resilience, ego regulation, compassion and empathy.

Trauma Intervention & Clinical EFT

Carers and service providers need to have the resources, education, strategy and framework to build their capability to deal with individual and community trauma, and to support effective and long-term trauma intervention. Importantly, they need a tool that is non-pharmacological, easy and affordable to learn, quick to produce long-lasting results and scalable, which can be used by individuals for self-care as well as by paraprofessionals to individuals and groups.

This tool is Clinical EFT. MHCF is raising the profile and use of Clinical EFT in traumatised communities, training carers and service providers in its use and making sure it is readily available.