SUPPORTING A LOVED ONE WITH TRAUMA
WHAT IS TRAUMA?
Trauma can be defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience that has a long lasting negative impact on an individual. this can range from car accidents, and medical trauma, to abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, experiencing a traumatic event is more common than one might think. For this reason, it is important to understand how to support someone who  has experienced a traumatic event(s). For basic information on trauma,  particularly Post Traumatic Stress Disorder please see the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
TRAUMA & THE BRAIN
Trauma does not only impact an individual's feelings. When someone experiences trauma there are significant repercussions to their brain as well. Below are helpful resources to understand, how exactly the brain changes due to trauma.
7 Ways Childhood Adversity Can Change Your Brain by Donna Jackson Nakazawa
UNDERSTANDING
TRAUMA & CHILDREN

Although you can find helpful information on supporting children in our Parenting and Families section, it is important to understand that children do not always react to trauma in the same way that adults do. Because of this, it is not always easy to recognize when a child has experienced trauma. Below are resources that address childhood trauma.
HELPFUL RESOURCES
SUPPORTING SOMEONE
WITH TRAUMA

Many people are unsure of the best way to support someone who has gone through trauma. In fact, your friend or loved one may need support in an entirely different way from yourself. However, there are some general guidelines about the most effective ways to comfort and support your loved one.

1. Listen. Listening can seem like such a simple solution, that is often overlooked. When someone in your life is coming to you in a vulnerable situation, the first thing that can be mistakenly done is to try to fix the issue. Although problem solving does have its place in healing trauma, jumping to this too soon can actually create a larger divide between you and your loved ones. It is important that you understand why the person is coming to you. Many times, this person is wanting someone to hear what they are going through.

2. Take Care of Yourself. You may have heard the idea that you cannot help someone else until you put on your own oxygen mask first. This is simply because we cannot be of help to someone unless we are in a place that allows us to be fully there with them. Whenever you are supporting a friend or loved one with a difficult experience, make sure you are also utilizing your self-care strategies. Although this can seem selfish, or unimportant, understand that if you are not at you full capacity, then your loved one cannot be at theirs.

3. Provide Support by Understanding First. This relates back to the first step of listening. It can be difficult to see another's situation and not immediately do what you would want done. If you feel that your friend or loved one is in need of mental health treatment, express your concern in an empathetic way, and listen for their response. Many people can feel fear from not knowing hat to do for their friends and family. Simply asking, "How can I support you/" can go a long way. However, it is also vital to not force an individual into doing something they are not ready for. If you feel that your loved one may need further support that you cannot provide its always an option to call the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) Cris Line at 801-587-3000 or the UNI Warm Line at 801-587-1055.
HOW DOES TRAUMA
IMPACT FAMILIES?

Unfortunately, the impact of trauma does not limit itself to the solely to the individuals who have experienced it. Friends and family members can experience vicarious trauma. This means that simply by being around the individual while they share their experience, and trying to support them can cause distress for yourself. Again, this is why taking care of yourself is so vital to supporting your loved one.

Trauma impacts each individual differently, because of this it can be difficult for families to be able to help together after a traumatic event. For example, some members of the family may feel the need for a closeness in relationships, while other members feel they need a distancing from others. Differing reactions to trauma can cause continuing discourse within the family after a trauma. For more detailed information, see The National Child Traumatic Stress Network on Trauma and Families.

Trauma does not always end after a few days or weeks. For example, events that can be similar to the original event can trigger trauma symptoms for the individual an their families for years to come. Therefore, families must allow these reactions to reoccur, as they are a continual part of the healing process after trauma.

There is no correct way for an individual and their family to react to a traumatic event. As family members supporting each other, it is impoartant to allow for a variety of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. It can be helpful to look for differences in your family member before and after the event. Although there is no "typical" response to trauma, one indicator can be changes in functioning after the event.
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