Can Do Healthcare - Thinking Differently Together About Trauma Informed Care

Lived Experience - Afrika’s Story “How do I tell people what had happened to me? How do I tell people that I’ve been sexually abused? – well I don’t. It’s something that I’ve had to carry for most of my life so it’s something I don’t feel the need to bring up. The only time I do is when my vulnerability starts to come out; so for instance, if I’m having something like a smear test, that feels very invasive to me, so I will give a healthcare professional the heads up then, but I often feel that they look at me kind of strange because I don’t think they can see the correlation between sexual abuse and something like a smear test, which is obviously quite routine for most women, but there is a direct correlation – so yes, it’s navigating things like that. With a smear test you obviously have different sized speculums: If someone who has been sexually abused hasn’t had a lot of sexual experiences because of that, why do they not have the virgin speculums? That is something that, when I’ve asked, they say we don’t actually have them – so you’re in pain and that’s a big problem, it’s a big deal. I’ve had much support over the years for it, I mean, everybody at Survivors in Transition has helped me and I even had therapy when I was young, and I’m continuing to have support for that – It was something that I’ll need to top up, it’s not something that I’ll just get over. What’s important when I am able to say what’s happened to me and I need that support, in whatever capacity, is empathy. Sometimes I’ll say in my situation how difficult it is and I know the words are being heard but they’re not really being listened to, and the healthcare professional isn’t being very accommodating – they’re just like ‘ok, but we’re still going to go on’ . I think from a healthcare point of view, what could be done better is for GP practices, they need to know that they are not the gatekeepers and they need to be better at signposting; they need to know that there are other provisions that are doing equally, if not more important work in the community and they need to have better ties. Also they need to look at mental health as being as important as physical health". Lived Experience - Steve’s Story “I served for 25 years in the London Fire Brigade as a frontline firefighter and during that time I experienced lots of traumatic incidents – fatal incidents, road traffic accidents, fires, suicides, quite a lot of suicide, and over a period of time that sort of builds up, and not one incident, but all of them become traumatic. Just taking a broad average, a firefighter who is operational might see four of five fatal incidents in a year, sometimes less. There was one particular year when I experienced ten fatal incidents in the space of a month, and that had a major impact on me, to the extent when I would go to sleep, and couldn’t sleep, couldn’t shut my eyes because all I kept seeing was these dead people. Every time we went out on a shout after that, I kept thinking I was going to see more death, more fatalities. Something happened at work that had a bad effect on me and I just felt like I couldn’t go to work anymore and I went to see my GP, and the GP prescribed me anti-depressants and a course of counselling through the NHS. I went to the counselling session and they were lots of sympathy – I got lots of sympathy but that’s not really what you need: So, after a period of time I went back to work, and I still wasn’t right. I approached the Fire Brigade counselling team and they were very good because they specialised in that sort of trauma and they understood everything that I was talking about, so rather than just give me sympathy they actually gave me solutions. Two years’ worth of counselling I had, and it didn’t really change anything, and then they recommended Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) therapy, and that is to drag put all the stuff that you’ve pushed to the back of your mind. I did that for about six months, once a week every week and some of the stuff that came out just surprised me because I’d long forgotten about it – or thought I had, and the effect that it had on me when they came out, it was just like being back there and experiencing it again, only this time, instead of pushing it to the back of your mind you’re dealing with it. My advice to healthcare professionals would be to get as much training as you can, but relevant training, and to specialise. So no matter who comes forward for help, the mental health team could assign someone that is actually experienced with that type of problem – that would be a lot more useful to the person who has come forward for help”. Thinking Differently Together | 4

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