Trauma Cards

What is trauma? 
Trauma can be defined as an event, or series of events, which are very stressful, frightening, distressing and/or disturbing. Causes of trauma include domestic abuse, sexual abuse, exposure to crime and bereavement; however, it is very much an individual reaction and there is no exhaustive list of causes.
What triggers trauma?
Trauma can be triggered at any stage in a person’s life and occurs when an external factor causes them to recall the event which was traumatic to them. Again, triggers are very personal and hugely varied, but some common examples can include a smell, visual object or a certain word or phrase.
The reactions caused by trauma are equally unique, but often can be likened to the symptoms of a panic attack. The instinct of the individual may be to retreat, shut down on an emotional and/or communicative level, or to react with a desire to protect themselves. Reactions can manifest on a physical, emotional and psychological manner. The effects have a huge impact on the individual personally, not just in the moment when the trigger occurs but for some time after. They can be hugely debilitating and distressing for the individual concerned.
How does the Trauma Card help?
We have developed our Trauma Card based on work by the Healthwatch Essex Trauma Ambassador Group.  The Trauma Card can be used to empower cardholders to make those they are interacting with aware of when they are experiencing the effects of trauma, and to inform those in receipt of the card about trauma and how to more effectively support, and work with, those living with the effects of trauma.
The Trauma Card has space on the back for the person to record an emergency contact.  They can also use this space to write down anything specific to them that may trigger a traumatic reaction or information about what they would like you to do if they are experiencing the effects of trauma.
What should I do when presented with a Trauma Card?
If you have been presented with a trauma card, the person you are interacting with is living with the effects of trauma, and the situation you are currently in has generated a trigger for them.

Please show the person who has given you this card empathy and understanding. They are in a situation where their immediate instinct may be to leave or ‘shut down’ and not engage. This comes from the need to protect themselves as they feel unsafe and not in control of the situation. It does not mean that they do not wish to engage with you and whatever process they are there for; it means that, at this moment in time, they are unable to do so through no fault of their own.

Please be patient and give the person time, without pressure. If they are able to communicate, ask them if there is anything you can provide that would help, such as being in a separate room or going outside for some fresh air. It may be that there is a song on the radio which has triggered them; this could be turned off. There are endless possibilities, but if you are able to communicate in a sensitive and understanding manner, the person may feel able to tell you what they need.

If this is not the case, the individual may need to remove themselves from the current situation as soon as possible. This does not mean that they don’t wish to engage or continue at a later date with the process that was underway; it simply means that they are unable to do so at this moment in time. Please assure them that you will reach out to them to discuss how they wish to proceed at a later date. It is important for them not to feel that their care or support will be adversely affected by something that is out of their control.