What is Trauma?
By Robbyn Hodgs
What is trauma?
We see this term and its variants often in modern society – references to childhood trauma, trauma informed care, physical and psychological trauma, to name a few. In reference to psychological trauma, how does knowledge of trauma impact the mental health of individuals and communities as a whole and what are some ways to help with the effects?
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “…Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.” (SAMHSA, 2014).
There are many reasons someone may experience trauma and the effects are different for everyone. Some signs of mental trauma may include anxiety, depression, dissociation, and numbness. Some people may develop sleeping disorders, flashbacks, nightmares, or may avoid their emotions all together, causing further psychological issues.
What can we do about mental trauma as individuals?
When individuals experience traumatic events, it is important to talk about it. Find a trusted friend, family member, or counselor to talk through emotions and triggers. Support groups may also be helpful as sometimes people who have experienced psychological trauma feel more understood by those who have similar experiences. The more an individual can learn about and understand their trauma, the more apt they are to begin their healing journey. Individuals need to remember to take things slowly with themselves and not resort to using substances that may exacerbate the issue such as illicit drugs or alcohol. According to The Jed Foundation, “Getting support early can prevent your symptoms from getting worse and interfering more with your life.” (JED, 2021).
What can we do about mental trauma as a community?
Communities can get involved with the healing process of psychological trauma by supporting open conversation and lending a listening ear. Support friends and family members by offering a safe, nonjudgmental place for them to talk about what they are feeling and by keeping the conversation confidential.
Communities can also educate themselves on the causes and effects of trauma. Trauma-informed communities are better equipped to help those in need and may be more likely to offer resources such as mental health organization referrals or support group creation and information. The Prevention Institute says, “Building thriving communities helps foster mental health and wellbeing for everyone. … community changes, large and small, along with the collaborations required to make them happen, ultimately strengthen mental health and wellbeing across communities.” (2021).
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma
and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4884.
Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014.
How to cope with psychological trauma: Jed. The Jed Foundation. (2021, July 29). Retrieved
October 25, 2021, from https://jedfoundation.org/resource/how-to-cope-with-
Mental Health & Wellbeing. Prevention Institute. (2021). Retrieved October 25, 2021, from
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the The Cardinal Initiative website!