There are moments in life that test us, that challenge our understanding of the world and our sense of safety. In the form of natural disasters, accidents and violence, traumatic experiences can be sudden, or they can happen over the years.
Psychological trauma comes in many forms and it affects people from all walks of life.
Three in four Australians will experience a potentially traumatic event in their lifetime – that’s nearly 19 million people living in Australia today.
Most people will recover quite quickly with the support of family and friends but for some, the impact of trauma can be deep and complex. Trauma can harm our physical and emotional wellbeing, it can change the way we see ourselves, affect our relationships and our everyday activities. It can make our world feel unpredictable and unsafe. For some, it can lead to mental health issues, such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug misuse.
Between 5 and 10 per cent of Australians will suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives.
COVID-19 has been devastating for families who have lost loved ones, and challenging for us all, stretching our capacity to cope. There have been many difficulties, from coping with living in lockdown, to dealing with loss of employment, and financial stress. For people who have experienced trauma in the past, aspects of the pandemic, such as curfews, increased police presence, or being forced to spend most of the time at home, may have triggered bad memories that cause stress and distress.
Healthcare workers, especially in hospitals and aged care facilities have been on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to potentially traumatic events, they have been faced with moral stressors and ethical dilemmas in their day-to-day work. Situations such as wanting to work and care for COVID-19 patients while also wanting to protect themselves and their families from harm; or having to deny families access to be with their dying relatives.
This kind of stress can lead to moral injury. Moral injury refers to the psychological, social and spiritual harm that can arise when our sense of right and wrong is transgressed or we feel betrayed.
It is important to know that there are effective ways to support yourself or someone you love who has been affected by trauma, and there are effective treatments for PTSD and other mental health disorders.
For more information about the range of moral emotions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, see this guide.
For more information about practical and effective ways to help yourself or others recover from trauma, visit the Phoenix Australia website today.
If you are concerned about how you, or a loved one, is coping, talk to your GP. For immediate assistance, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.