What is trauma management?

A traumatic event is an incident that causes distress either:
• Emotionally
• Physically
• Spiritually
• Or psychologically

While reactions felt following a traumatic experience are completely normal, when they’re continuous or left unaddressed, it can lead to other underlying mental health conditions.

Within the work setting, trauma has been found to affect the productivity, engagement and retention of employees amongst other things.
If left unaddressed, as well as leading to other mental health conditions, it can also have drastic effects on a business. With the ever-rising cost associated with employee retention and recruitment, it may also have major financial implications for the business.

This piece explores trauma management. In it, we’ll define trauma, explore management techniques and make suggestions for how you can support your employees following a traumatic event.

What is trauma management?
Trauma management is the efforts in place to support people after experiencing a traumatic event. It aims to normalise the psychological, physiological and emotional responses to minor, mild or severe critical incidents.
Incidents can happen at any time and to anyone. Traumatic experiences come in many forms, some of the most common ones include:
• Divorce
• War
• Terrorism
• Rape
• Domestic abuse
• Prison stay
• Natural disasters
• Parental abandonment

There are also various responses to these events. Initially, those that have experienced a traumatic event will notice symptoms such as lack of concentration, tearfulness, helplessness, fear, anger, etc.

When these feelings are long-term (more than four weeks), they can develop to other more intense responses such as:

• Nightmares
• Flashbacks
• Anxiety and fear
• Avoidance, withdrawal and isolation
• Depression, mood swings
• Anger, sadness, guilt, etc.

Because individuals react differently to traumatic incidents, each person will also deal with it differently, so it’s important to choose the right treatment.
While treatments vary depending on the individual, the one thing they have in common is they help people understand the reaction felt following a traumatic event.
An effective trauma management program will include a variety of options available to help employees return to work as normal.
Examples include telephone and on-site counselling, resources such as workbooks, articles, and guides, post-incident support and acute crisis intervention.

How to support employees after a traumatic event
The way you choose to support your employees can make all the difference between them staying with your organisation or not.

There are several ways to support your staff after a traumatic event, including:

Acknowledgement: You can start by recognising an issue has occurred. Clearly acknowledging their trauma plays a huge role in validating their worries goes a long way to reassuring them they’re not overreacting. If available, encourage them to take advantage of your company’s employee assistance programme as most services also offer workplace counselling.

Empathy: It’s one thing to acknowledge there’s a problem, it’s another to understand the severity of the situation. Listening is essential but remember to do so without passing judgement. Simply put yourself in their position and think about the type of support you would need.

Routine: Following a routine has been found to have positive benefits for mental health. Although making reasonable adjustments are a legal requirement and may be necessary for some people, others may require some structure to their day. Encourage your staff to maintain their normal daily activities as much as they can.
Exercise: This does so much more than just releasing endorphins. As well as helping you feel good, regular exercise helps the nervous system become ‘unstuck’ and moves it out it the immobilisation stress response mode.

We have two Maudsley Learning courses which might be relevant to you if your job role brings you into contact with individuals in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic incident.

The first one-day workshop has been designed for any frontline staff, and the aim of the workshop is to provide attendees with skills so that they would feel confident in supporting individuals who have experienced traumatic events such as terrorist attacks, fires, transport incidents, assault etc.

The second course has the same aim, but it has been designed for any staff or clinicians working in mental health, who may have contact with individuals in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic incident.

Both courses are available for commission on request.