One of the key triggers for mental health and emotional well-being issues in children and young people is traumatic events – but what do we mean by a traumatic event?
What constitutes a ‘traumatic event’?
It’s quite a generic term that can cover all manner of ills but generally brings to mind events such as bereavement, major accidents or rape. These types of significant events can be objectively identified as traumatic events – but where do we draw the line between traumatic and non-traumatic events? Well that’s easy, we don’t draw the line, the young person concerned does…
Whether an event is traumatic is purely down to the young person’s perception
We all respond differently to similar events depending on a multitude of factors such as our emotional resilience, our ability to communicate our feelings and how much support we’ve received from the network around us. Whilst some people might undergo significant mental and emotional stress following the loss of a loved one, for example, other people may seem to carry on remarkably unscathed. So we can’t categorise events as traumatic or non-traumatic depending on their severity, it’s all about the response of the person concerned.
Never dismiss events as non-traumatic
Some young people may respond particularly badly to events which we can be quick to deem as insignificant – such as the loss of a pet or a minor car accident. The thing to remember is that if the young person concerned perceives the event as traumatic, then it was. How we feel about the event is insignificant; we may need to offer just as much support to one child following a minor car accident as we would to another following the death of a parent.
Offer your full support even if you can’t understand
One of the key things that will help young people to overcome traumatic events is the unwaivering support of the people they trust. Even if you can’t understand why an event has had such a major impact on a young person, giving them the chance to talk to you about it and ensuring they understand that you’re taking them seriously is the first step in ensuring that the perceived trauma does not have a lasting impact on their emotional or mental wellbeing.
What are your experiences?
Have you ever been puzzled by the way a young person has responded to a particular event? Share your (anonymised) experiences by leaving a comment below sharing approaches and responses that you found to be helpful to the young person concerned.