What is Trauma and Adversity?
Trauma and adversity are used to describe both one-off and reoccurring highly stressful and distressing events or situations.
Everyone experiences upsetting and difficult situations sometimes – and it is normal to feel sad, stressed or distressed in these situations. Usually when these difficult things happen, we’re able to get the support we need to feel better with time. However, certain events or experiences can be traumatic and can leave us struggling with our mental health over a much longer period of time. If these events take place during childhood, they are often referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
Although Trauma isn’t a mental health condition in itself, experiencing trauma and adverse life events can result in a person struggling with their emotional wellbeing, relationships and mental health.
A wide range of mental health problems can be linked to trauma, including anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders and self-harming behaviours. Some can also be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD). Someone experiencing these will often have flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts that can appear at any time or ‘from nowhere’, and strong feelings or reactions in response to reminders of a particular event or experience. They may also avoid particular memories, thoughts and feelings related to the distressing experience, as well as people, places or activities that remind them of it.
Cornwall is training schools to be Trauma Informed Schools (TIS). This means that there are many school-based staff that now understand the impact of trauma and adversity on mental health and wellbeing. They are also increasingly skilled in offering support.
What causes Trauma and adversity?
Trauma and adversity can be caused by a number of different things but it often involves a threat to a person’s physical or emotional safety, and a sense of being trapped, powerless or unsupported in the face of a perceived danger or in the time afterwards –without immediate access to safety and protection.
- One-off or ongoing distressing events e.g. Emotional, physical or sexual abuse
- Being directly harmed e.g. a violent or frightening event such as an assault or a car accident
- Witnessing harm to someone else e.g. family conflict or domestic violence
- Living in a traumatic atmosphere / feeling unsafe at home
- Being affected by trauma in a family or community
- Being exposed to frightening or inappropriate online content
- Losing a family member or friend to suicide, or a sudden death in the family