Trauma Advice for Family, Friends and Colleagues

When someone you care about has been exposed to a traumatic event and they are not feeling quite their normal self in the following days and weeks, it can be hard to know how to support them.

You may feel helpless and have an urge to try to 'fix' them.  Your attempts to reassure may seem as though they are falling on deaf ears...try not to despair.

Trauma Advice - Some Helpful Hints

  • Listening is the most helpful thing you can do if your loved one starts to talk.  Remember not to try and 'fix' them or blindly reassure.  Just listen.
  • Spend time with the person and try not to avoid them.  Even if they are not talking much, just your presence can be reassuring and allows opportunity if they do wish to communicate with you.  Do not force them to talk.
  • Sometimes concentration can be affected so it may be a good idea to help them with every day or routine tasks.
  • Allow the person some private time - try not to take it to heart if they want to be alone more than usual, especially in the first few days following the traumatic event.
  • Don't take the person's anger or other strong feelings personally.
  • Don't tell the person "you'll get over it" or "it could have been worse" or even "come on, pull yourself together."  These words can spark strong emotions and reactions and minimise a person's experience.
  • Tell them that you want to understand.  Perhaps ask them what would be helpful to them or what they need.
  • Gently encourage the person to engage in any support offered, particularly if their employer is able to provide appropriate help or offer a trauma risk management process if they have been exposed to the trauma in the workplace.
  • If it seems as though there is no improvement in their symptoms and they haven't returned to their normal self within 4 to 6 weeks following the traumatic event, consider suggesting the person makes an appointment with their GP. 
  • Take care of yourself.  It can be tough supporting someone who is in a difficult place emotionally, so ensure you are also engaging in your own support network.

If you have been exposed to a traumatic event, click here for advice on how you can take care of yourself.

Information on TRiM (Trauma Risk Management)

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