Managing Re-Traumatisation Risks During COVID-19

Many of us have had our worlds turned upside down in different ways by coronavirus. From health risks, job losses/threats, financial distress, home schooling, business and office closures, movement restrictions, and separation from loved ones, to grief and loss.

All of this has been stressful for most people, but particularly challenging for people already struggling with mental health issues, including trauma.


What is trauma?

A widely cited definition of trauma is:

“Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being” (SAMHSA).

Victims of violent crime often experience trauma, as do survivors of natural disasters. Trauma is also common in our society from many other experiences. It can be treated naturally through a recovery process and assistance from professional help.

Many things in the world around us can re-trigger trauma. The unprecedented global coronavirus pandemic is one example. While it has caused a spectrum of trauma for countless people, thankfully Australia is one of the safest countries in the world due to public health measures. However, these restrictions can also re-traumatise trauma survivors and disrupt healing and recovery.


Re-traumatisation risks

Re-traumatisation risks include things that trigger:

  • Feeling a lack of control
  • Experiencing unexpected change
  • Feeling threatened or attacked
  • Feeling vulnerable and frightened.


These feelings are normal in the context of trauma – whether that is related to coronavirus, or to experiences you suffered as the result of a crime. Stress related to trauma can result in difficulty sleeping or concentrating, feeling overwhelmed, out of control, scared, anxious, and depressed.

If you’re experiencing trauma, things that can help during this time include:

  • Working on empowerment
  • Being given options and control over decisions
  • Developing (or sticking to) routines and familiarity
  • Establishing safety and reassurance.


Tips to cope with coronavirus stress

Some general ways to look after your wellbeing during the coronavirus include:

  • Take breaks from the news – Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting. Limit access to news stories, including social media.
  • Take care of your body – Eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, move your body every day, try deep breathing exercises, meditate, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind – Try to do the activities you enjoy and that make you feel relaxed. Listening to music, exercising, spending time with pets, getting out in nature, gardening, baking, and organising your cupboards are some examples of self-care activities.
  • Connect with others – Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Focus on what you can control – Maintain a daily routine, and reflect on the things you can control such as your favourite activities, what makes you feel safe, and what support you have around you.


Where to get help

Often people who have experienced trauma are helped by a team of supporters, including friends, family, professionals, neighbours, and the wider community.

If you are having difficulty coping, please speak with your GP who can help with your sleep, physical, and mental health. They can create a mental health care plan and may refer you to a psychologist or other allied health professional.

Another reason to see your GP is if you are considering lodging an application for financial assistance with Victims Assist Queensland (VAQ). It is important to have documentation for your application, including a diagnosis (even provisional) from your GP, psychologist or psychiatrist.


Trauma-Informed Care with VCSS

VCSS works from a Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) framework. We are continuing to support victims of violent crime, witnesses, and family members throughout the disruption of COVID-19, and now offer our counselling services over telephone and videoconferencing.

We support trauma survivors and empower them in their healing process. We can help you to identify and manage triggers and re-traumatising risks to aid the healing process. Supporters, friends, family and survivors themselves can also use these key concepts to feel better.

You can make an appointment or get information and telephone referrals by calling our 24/7 number: 1300 139 703.