This page is also available in Welsh (Cymraeg).

Trauma

Explains what trauma is and how it affects your mental health, including how you can help yourself, what treatments are available and how to overcome barriers to getting the right support. Also includes tips for people who want to support someone who has gone through trauma.

What barriers might I face when seeking help?

Seeking help with the effects of trauma can be difficult, and you might sometimes face barriers to getting the support you need and deserve. For example:

  • You may not be able to talk about what happened. This may bring up very strong feelings or trigger reactions like panic attacks, dissociation or suicidal feelings.
  • You may not know if it was trauma. For example, you may not remember what happened, or know how to understand your experiences.
  • You may have had bad experiences of seeking help. For example, if people didn't listen to you or help you, or you’ve been harmed by poor healthcare.

"From a very early age I recognised that things didn’t always ‘add up’ but it took many years and until very recently... I am 58... for me to put many of the pieces of my history together... particularly in relation to the impact on me."

  • You may need to explain things to multiple people. You may talk to several healthcare professionals before you can access the right support. This could mean you're asked the same questions a number of times.
  • Professionals don't always understand trauma, which might mean they don't understand your strengths or what's helped you survive. For example, you might feel that your coping mechanisms are being judged or criticised.
  • Other people may not understand. For example, family or community members may be hostile or critical of people seeking help with trauma or their mental health, or may deny or dismiss what you're going through.
  • You may have tried something that hasn’t helped, which can feel really discouraging.
  • Coping with trauma can sometimes feel too difficult. There might be times when you feel like you can't cope or it all just seems too hard.

If you're unhappy with how professionals are treating you, you can complain. Our guide to seeking help for a mental health problem has more information, and see our legal pages on complaining about health and social care.

If you've been abused by health and social care professionals, our abuse resource lists organisations that can help.

How can I overcome these barriers?

If you're facing barriers like these, here are some things that could help:

  • Write things down.This could help if it's too hard to say things out loud or you don’t want to repeat them. 
  • Take it one day at a time. There might be good days and bad days. Try to focus on each day at a time and set yourself small, achievable goals.
  • You can choose what you share. What you tell people about your experiences is up to you.
  • Tell people what sort of support you would like. For example asking someone to listen and not give you advice.
  • Ask professionals about their expertise. You can ask if they have specific training and experience of working with trauma, and about anything else that concerns you.
  • Show people this information. It may help them to learn more about trauma.

"I was very damaged by a counsellor who was very well meaning but treated me like a guinea pig with her questioning and at times brutal approach."

  • You can try therapy whether or not you can open up. Some people think you can only get help from a therapist if you feel ready to open up, but this isn’t true. Therapists who understand trauma should support you and give you coping skills, however much you do or don’t share.
  • Ask what choices you can make. For example, you might be able to request a therapist of a particular gender, or choose to sit facing the door if that feels safer for you. See our information on getting the most from therapy for more suggestions.
  • Focus on how you're feeling now. Whether or not you remember or understand what happened, you can seek help with how you're affected and what's happening for you now.
  • Trauma affects everyone differently. The support you need is also individual to you. You might need support with any type of trauma, after any amount of time.
  • Connect with people who’ve been there too. Getting support and encouragement from people who've been through something similar can be really helpful. See our pages on peer support for more information.

"I spoke to some other survivors and realised they felt the exact same way. Talking to them was brilliant. It made me realise that while my behaviour had changed, I was just coping the way I could, that we all were."

  • Explore any alternatives. Our pages on treatments and therapies could give you more options to discuss with your doctor. There may be something you haven't tried yet that could be helpful.
  • Talk to Mind. We're here for you. Our Infoline can help you explore options for support near you, and we have local Mind branches in England and Wales who provide a range of services you may be able to access.
  • Find an advocate. An advocate can help you express your views and wishes, and help you access the support you need and deserve.

If you’ve tried something and it hasn't helped, try to be gentle and patient with yourself. Coping with the effects of trauma can be really difficult and can take a lot of time and energy, but many people find that when they have the right combination of treatments, self-care and support, it is possible to feel better.

Who would believe me?

"I would really like to see a change, where it is up to the police to press charges. They had my perpetrator's recorded confession... I was too scared to make the decision all by myself."

This information was published in January 2020. We will revise it in 2022.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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