Trauma Informed Care – Mental Health First Aid

By Jenna DeRosa, LPCC

verified by Psychology Today

What is trauma?

Trauma informed care – mental health first aid. Trauma is defined as an event or experience that causes psychological distress to an individual. Trauma is deeply personal to each individual that you come across. Some experiences that deeply impact one person, may not impact another. There are the traumatic experiences that we hear most about; physical, sexual or emotional abuse. But it is important to keep in mind that many other human experiences can qualify as a trauma. It could also be experiences or events that the individual witnesses or hears about, it may not be an event that they directly experienced.

How to recognize trauma

Again, it’s important to know that this may be present differently with each individual and the trauma that they experienced. Below are some common symptoms to recognize:


  • Nightmares
  • Mood swings; sudden shifts of depression, anger, anxiety, etc.
  • Loss of memory
  • Dissociation
  • Individual seeing visual images of the event
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Social isolation or withdrawal
  • Avoidance of certain places or people
  • Easily startled
  • Always on alert
  • Freezing or unresponsiveness
  • Screaming or yelling
  • Hypervigilance
  • Exhaustion and insomnia
  • Changes in sleep and eating patterns
  • Panic attacks
  • Overwhelming fear
  • Detachment from people and emotions
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Emotions; shame, irritability, disbelief, shock, fear, depressed anger, etc.

Risk Factors:

  • Individuals with disabilities
  • History of domestic abuse within family
  • Poverty and socioeconomic disadvantages
  • Substance use in family
  • Community violence
  • Gender Identity
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Generational trauma
  • Stress within the home
  • Age

Coping skills

How to respond

When an individual is opening up to you about a trauma, your response and support is  crucial, here is what you need to provide for them:

  • A non-judgemental space and reaction
  • Care and compassion
  • Ask them what they need from you
  • Do not question them or their trauma
  • Be patient, stay with them unless they ask you to
  • Thank them for sharing their story
  • Give 100% of your attention
  • Do not compare their story to someone else’s
  • Do not ask them to share more than they are comfortable
  • AVOID phrases like; “look on the bright side,” “it happened so long ago, shouldn’t you be over it,” “everything happens for a reason,” “it could have been worse,” “stay positive,” “calm down”

How to help a loved one

  • Responding the right way (read above)
  • Do research on your own about trauma
  • Get support for yourself

Online resources for trauma survivors

*These are just a few, there are MANY more resources out there*

Online resources for loved ones of trauma survivors:

*These are just a few, there are MANY more resources out there*

See My Reading Recommendations


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