By Bradley Hamm, LCSW
Conversations about mental health are at an all-time high, and have escalated significantly as a result of the pandemic and increased accessibility to both in-person help as well as telehealth.
Often, when mental health professionals are interviewed on local or national news media, they use terms like trauma, trauma-informed care, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). While these are common terms among mental health professionals, few people understand their meaning.
Trauma typically refers to what individuals might experience after a distressing negative experience, such as the the death of a loved one, being involved in a car accident, receiving a frightening medical diagnosis, or exposure to combat during a war.
Trauma-informed care involves the recognition that most of us have experienced some form of trauma in our lives, which affects how we view and interact with others. Health and human service providers and staff who are trained in providing trauma-informed care are better equipped to provide more compassionate care to patients and refrain from retraumatizing them.
Viewing the world through a trauma-informed lens requires empathy, and a deeper understanding of human behavior. For example, observing an individual who appears to be behaving erratically should prompt us to consider what may have occurred in a person’s life to cause that behavior. A great example is Beth, who was raised in a home by strict, disciplinary parents. Accidentally spilling a glass of milk prompted screaming, yelling, and punishment. The experience was so impactful that to this day, Beth becomes teary-eyed, anxious, and frightened when she spills something. To those who did not experience the extreme disciplinary action that Beth did, a normal reaction would typically be, “Oh darn, I spilled some milk.” For Beth, the normal reaction would be, “Oh no, I spilled my milk and will have to be locked in my room again!”
PTSD is what happens when the trauma was severe enough, or happened so many times, that a person’s brain hasn’t been able to fully process those negative memories. It is our brain’s way of protecting us. Some common symptoms of PTSD include having nightmares, flashbacks (feelings of repeatedly reliving the traumatic event), emotional stress, or physical reactivity when exposed to reminders of the trauma.
The good news is that there are several evidence-based treatments available to help people who are reliving their trauma and experiencing PTSD. If you think that this is the case for either you or a loved one, please reach out to a qualified mental health professional who can help you overcome your unique traumatic experiences.
Dedicated to helping people overcome trauma, Bradley K. Hamm, LCSW is the founder of A Peace of My Mind Licensed Clinical Social Work, PLLC, located at 3960 Harlem Road, Suite 10, Snyder, New York 14226. Learn more at www.peaceofmymindlcsw.com or call 716-421-6945. Follow him on Instagram @bradley_hamm_lcsw.