Trauma will affect everyone differently. There is no ‘right’ way to react to trauma. Some people react emotionally, others might throw themselves into work or practical tasks. Teenagers especially may withdraw and seem not to react.
Some people who have been through a life-threatening situation may be affected by post-traumatic stress disorder. This could be a natural disaster such as a flood or bushfire, a serious accident, or an assault. Post-traumatic stress disorder can be recognised by a range of signs and symptoms and may need professional support.
Providing support and comfort is important to help someone who has experienced a traumatic event recover, but don’t assume you know what they need. Ask how you can help. Offer practical support like taking care of some of the farm chores, looking after the children, or bring some ready-made meals for the family.
Even if you don’t feel like you are doing ‘enough’ be assured that your support is helping them recover, even if you cannot see any immediate effects. Often just sitting with a person over a cuppa, or inviting them to go for a walk with you can be of great benefit.
Helping friends and family after a traumatic or distressing event can be difficult, but you can help. It’s always a good idea to ask the person how you can best support them through the trauma. Listening, talking and practical help are all important ways to help. It may take some time before people feel ready to talk about the event. Maintain contact over the long term, when the first rush of community support may have passed. Make sure you follow through on any support you promise.
Find out more about this topic on Better Health Channel
References used for this topic page
Phoenix Australia: Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health
Recovery: Helping Others
Australian Psychological Society
Better Health Channel
Trauma and primary school age children
Better Health Channel
Trauma and children – tips for parents
Mental Health First Aid
National Center for PTSD (US)
Helping a family member who has post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Support After Suicide
Support after suicide
Phoenix Australia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health
Australian Guidelines for the treatment of adults with Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Research & reviews:
The role of social network and support in mental health service use: findings from the Baltimore ECA study [PDF 95kb]
12th National Rural Health Conference Presentation
Complex post-traumatic stress disorder—breaking the silence of the fringe dweller