As part of understanding and overcoming my own acute trauma, I met, spoke and shared experiences with people that had been in similar circumstances. Over the last two years, I have conducted more formal interviews in order to develop an enhanced understanding of what creates an acute trauma response and how that response presents itself and evolves over time.
Overwhelming similarities in the nature of responses were detected along with patterns in the time frames associated with their presentation when the traumatic event that had affected an individual comprised of death, media coverage, a public sense of tragedy and severe personal shock. When these four factors were present, individuals presented an acute trauma response and displayed the same combination of cognitive and neurological responses.
Many of those who have experienced acute trauma have reported being able to, eventually 'work things out for themselves'; taking components of psychology, therapy, counselling and mindfulness and mashing them together in a way that appropriately supports the acute trauma response and meets their unique mental health needs. Almost everyone interviewed had reached a point of mental health crisis between 10 and 13 years after the event. Most report still experiencing mental health problems but feeling their recovery was 'as good as it would get'.
The feeling of being 'let down' by key workers, social workers, GPs, therapists, teachers and even friends and family was unanimous and in many instances the lack of appropriate support and guidance has led to individuals feeling lonely, isolated and hopeless. Everyone that was interviewed, admitted to experiencing suicidal idealisation at least once as part of their acute trauma response.
COVID-19 AS AN ACUTE TRAUMA
When thinking about the way in which children, young people and adults will respond to the pandemic, it became obvious that for some people COVID-19 will have presented them with the four critical components of acute trauma; death, media coverage, tragedy and shock.
Although it is unrealistic to assume that every person that has been affected by the death of a loved one during the pandemic will have an acute trauma response, it is likely to be the case for many people in the UK and around the world.
To understand the extent to which the bereaved population will experience acute trauma, I recently conducted some research that explored the 3 acute trauma components; shock, tragedy and media coverage.
We explored how the generalised pandemic media coverage has shaped and influenced people's thinking and experience of the pandemic and our research report shows our findings along with what this means for our society as we begin to recover and heal from the many losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.