We have discussed several aspects of the complex subject of trauma but have not yet touched on how to help a victim. It is difficult to know how to help a family member or friend who lives in trauma-induced fear feel safe, particularly if a crowded setting can trigger a traumatic event. In Creating Sanctuary, Dr. Sandra Bloom describes the importance of providing safety to alleviate this kind of fear and panic for a traumatized individual. One suggestion is to create a personal safety plan to help when someone is feeling anxious or unsafe.
Creating a personal safety plan
Here are suggestions a traumatized individual can use to feel safe. The person can also offer suggestions to provide more comfortable in light of unique traumatic or anxiety-provoking triggers and cues.
- Know where exits are located
- Sit near a door
- Look around to be sure other people seem safe
- Think about ways to protect oneself if something scary or dangerous happens
- Refuse to speak
- Be prepared to leave the room
- Picture a safe and peaceful spot one really likes
- Sit near someone one feels safe being close to, someone who might protect her
- Self-talk: think about what one is saying to him/herself and correct overreactive, untrue thoughts
- Consider if he/she is overreacting because of something that happened to him/her some other time and place; change his/her thoughts to be more realistic
- Tell someone he/she trusts if he/she starts to feel unsafe
- Distract oneself by doodling; take notes, study things in the room, think about what she wants to have for dinner, tap a pen softly on one’s foot, rock, suck on a lifesaver
- Breathe deeply
- Relax one’s body
- Pray-for oneself and for others
- Close his/her eyes for a few minutes
- Zone out and decide to not pay attention
Supporting and caring for trauma victims
We communicate our support by helping someone intentionally create a personal safety plan and give that person practical ways to become less panicked and stressed about his/her surroundings. It is an effective way to help and care for those around us who may be struggling with the impact of trauma.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
Information taken from Deepening Trauma Awareness, Diane Wagenhals, 2008. All rights reserved. Licensed materials.