Understanding Trauma

What is Trauma? What are Adverse Childhood Experiences? How do they relate to Trauma and Homelessness.

Introducing Trauma

‘Trauma is widely recognised as one of the most pressing public health issues.’

Homelessness in Europe, FEANSTA 2017

The Winter 2017 FEANTSA Magazine, ‘Homelessness in Europe’, begins its comprehensive coverage of Trauma and Homelessness with the statement above, but is this true in the UK? Has this recognition of trauma as a public health issue featured highly in UK health policy? We fear this progress is slower than is needed, particularly for services designed to offer help to the most vulnerable in society, such as people who are or have been homeless.

In Exeter we are collectively acknowledging trauma and some services are organising themselves around the principles of Trauma Informed Care, perhaps because it is clear that many people are effected by childhood and adult trauma and require support not just with their housing but in recovering from a lifetime of living with traumatic experiences.

The FEANTSA publication draws upon neuroscience and developmental psychology to understand and demonstrate how trauma and its long lasting effects impact on emotions and behaviours. Importantly, the growing body of evidence has opened up new ways of working with people who ‘have often been rejected by services because of their complex needs or behaviour’ associated with their experience of trauma.

What is Trauma?

Trauma refers to harmful emotional, psychological, biological and social human responses to an event(s) or circumstances which are experienced as life threatening to the individual.

Substance Abise and Mental Helath Administration (SAMHSA) 2014

“Being traumatised means continuing to organise your life as if the trauma were still going on – unchanged and immutable – as every new encounter or event is contaminated by the past”​

Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score

In the pages below you will find…

  • Childhood Adversity, Toxic Stress & Why it Matters
  • Adult Trauma
  • Trauma and Homelessness
  • The links between Trauma, Mental Health, Addiction and Homelessness