Newsletters Blog Home News

Trauma-aware, trauma-informed: how well do we understand what this means?

by Jacq Molloy, Snr Communications & Project Lead

We want to be trauma-aware and we speak of trauma-informed care. How do we build awareness and capability around this?

There’s a reason why definitions of trauma can be problematic outside of a clinical frame. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to trauma. There are events we might all recognise as traumatic and therefore capable of resulting in trauma responses.

But there are also events that might depend on an individual as to how they experience it. Moreover it is possible that trauma can evolve from a series of events or experiences that in and of themselves do not seem ‘that bad’.

This all makes being trauma-aware difficult.

The 2023 Warwick Thornton film, The New Boy, starring Cate Blanchett, Deborah Mailman and Aswan Reid, reminds us that the effects of colonisation, assimilation and ‘becoming normal’ bring with it trauma that might be invisible to many.

We know too that ‘triggers’ of trauma responses are just that: small momentary flashes that would seem inconsequential to many if they were even noticed at all. But to someone with trauma in their life these triggers can provoke serious trauma responses and have serious – sometimes generational – implications.

In his 2022 article, The Bible Keeps Record of Trauma, but is it Trauma Informed?, Nate Brooks, a Christian counsellor, writes

Being trauma-informed isn’t a hat tip to a ‘snowflake’ generation’s oversensitivity. Rather, it’s based on the recognition that wounds cut deeply, and some wounds are more injurious than others. Put yourself in the shoes of someone whose youth pastor groomed them, exploited them, blamed them, and threatened them. What is it like for them to put their own children in youth group? Or imagine a veteran who tends to feel strong sense of threat when surrounded by loud noises. What’s it like for them when the congregation belts out the chorus of a hymn with gusto?

Trauma can be invisible – and not just in terms of a diagnosis or experience not shared with others. Trauma might be unseen by an individual because of our brain’s extraordinary capacity to dissociate and repress.

How do we provide trauma-aware care in an aged care setting for someone whose trauma is unknown and unseen unless a cognitive decline removes that protection their brain has afforded them until now?

And how will we serve our aged care staff well when moral injury and prolonged exposure to death and dying can lead to its own potential trauma?

Our online workshops in March and other MAA events coming up will address this topic and provide valuable perspectives and information. You can learn more on our website events page and also check out the upcoming events in this newsletter!