What is trauma?

Trauma can occur as a result of a severely distressing event which results in an individual feeling threatened physically or psychologically and it can in turn affect our ability to cope and lead to wider mental health problems (see our trauma factsheet L729 What is Trauma, which can be viewed on our website or requested through your care team).

We know that it is common for people to experience intrusive images and thoughts, and/or fear, shame, anger, nightmares and avoidance after a traumatic event. If this is not addressed then this can develop into post-traumatic stress disorder.

However, there are also many other reactions to trauma, particularly if the trauma was when a person was young, it was ongoing or there are many adverse experiences. These can include depression, self-harm, alcohol and drug misuse, psychosis, relationship difficulties, dissociation, forensic issues, eating problems, suicidality and an increased risk of poor physical health. Hearing voices is particularly triggered by loss or trauma, even in those people not distressed by them.

Some people have found difficult life experiences have made them stronger. For some people, what health professionals may call a ‘symptom’ may actually have been a way of surviving the trauma.

People who are most distressed and disabled over long periods of their lives are usually those with an accumulation of traumas.


Why is trauma informed care so important?

Understanding trauma is relevant to mental health, as survivors may have had many reactions to trauma.

A traumatic experience can affect the person as a whole in various areas of their life including their mental health, physical health and their relationships and feelings towards themselves and others. It is important for health care professionals to understand this bigger picture and to take life experiences into account when planning a person’s care.

The aim of trauma informed care is to develop an understanding of what’s happened to a person and the impact this has had on their mental health. Once we have a good understanding of this, we can then move towards thinking about what we, the individual or their social network might be able to engage with that will move towards recovery.

Trauma informed care sees the issues that people are experiencing are often as a reaction to adversity. It promotes healing from the trauma, values co-production and peer support.

Trauma informed care doesn’t just look at symptoms, instead it asks a person ‘what has happened to you’, it helps people to feel safe and build on their strengths and the support around them.


TEWV trauma informed care project

Our trauma informed care project is aimed at improving service users’ experience and outcomes by understanding and managing issues in a different way.

Trauma informed care emphasises physical, psychological and emotional safety and helps people to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment in their lives and communities.

We know that exposure to trauma is common and it is therefore important that as a Trust, our practitioners screen for trauma as early as possible.

We go beyond our duty to routinely enquire about abuse and encourage ongoing conversations to understand how people are feeling and to understand any difficulties they may be experiencing. In turn this helps us to make sure people receive the best treatment to support them in their recovery from trauma and their wider mental health.


“Trauma informed care gives an acknowledgement of the trauma and reinforces that what you are experiencing is real”

- service user’s experience of screening for trauma.

An easy read version, L989E, with imagery of the above information is available to download here.

Leaflet reference: L996
Version: V1
Date last updated: 7 / 2 / 2018
Archive date: 7 / 2 / 2021


An EasyRead version of this information is also available here.


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