A Common Thread in Mental Health Conditions
While most of us may see a horrible event on the 5 o’clock news or read about it while scrolling online, first responders experience it directly. These men and women don’t experience trauma in isolated incidents, but rather as part of their day-to-day lives. Unfortunately, trauma is often at the root of many mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, and substance misuse. As a result, first responders develop these conditions at a higher rate than the general population, about 30% compared to 20% based on SAMHSA estimates. Simple Recovery is proud to offer an exclusive, first-responder-only treatment track in order to help these men and women attend to their mental wellness. We are equally proud to adhere to trauma-informed care guidelines while attending to both our first responder and general population patients. But what exactly does that mean?
The Nature of Trauma
Trauma is an event that leaves a person unable to cope or overwhelmed in a literal sense. Trauma survivors speak of not being able to find the words to describe what occurred, or not being able to “find a place to put it.” Because the feelings associated with the traumatic event are never properly processed and integrated, a victim of trauma is subject to re-traumatization, or re-living emotions and reactions associated with the original trauma. Triggers for re-traumatization may resemble the original experience closely or just symbolically. A common example of this is a combat veteran who has an adverse reaction to the sound of fireworks.
What is Trauma-Informed Care?
In its simplest form, trauma-informed care means treating patients who may have a history of trauma with respect and with their previous experiences in mind. This sounds like a pretty basic goal that all medical professionals should strive toward. However, the nature of trauma can make even routine medical visits difficult. Consider, for example, a doctor’s request that a patient disrobes before examination. What is a minor embarrassment or inconvenience for most patients has the potential to be a pretty severe trigger for some sexual assault survivors. Further examples are the use of isolation and restraint as punishment in behavioral health systems.
Six Key Principles
Because trauma is so prevalent in mental health patients, SAMHSA outlines six key principles they consider to be fundamental to trauma-informed care.
- Safety – From clients to staff, everyone in the care environment must feel safe. Again, this can sometimes be trickier than it seems. First responders, for example, as a result of their positions of authority have a difficult time opening up among clients they may interact with on the street. That’s one of the reasons Simple Recovery created a standalone track exclusively for first responders.
- Trustworthiness and Transparency – This is another cornerstone of medical ethics. Operating with openness allows patients to make informed decisions about their care and builds trust. This is essential to feeling safe and is just one example of how these principles work together.
- Peer Support – The experience of someone who has been through similar issues is invaluable to our clients and facilitating a network of peers helps to foster an environment of safety and trust.
- Collaboration and Mutuality – SAMHSA puts it best by stating that “everyone has a role to play in a trauma-informed approach.” Getting everyone on the same page and interacting helps to eliminate the power differential.
- Empowerment, Voice, and Choice – Again, from SAMHSA: “Organizations understand the importance of power differentials and the ways in which clients, historically, have been diminished in voice and choice and are often recipients of coercive treatment.” What our clients need as much as the tools for a new life is the chance to be heard.
- Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues – We don’t ignore cultural differences; we respect them, and we move beyond biases and stereotypes.
About Simple Recovery
Simple Recovery makes trauma-informed a priority for both our first responder and general population clients. We treat post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, and substance misuse and our curriculum includes family systems support, sobriety tools, and healthy coping mechanisms to ensure our clients a safe and successful transition back to their careers and personal lives. If you or someone you love is suffering, please don’t hesitate to give Simple Recovery a call today.