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  1. What is trauma?
  2. What happens when someone is traumatised?
  3. How can you get help?

Trauma is when you feel helpless, scared or terrified – even thinking that you, or someone you know might die or be seriously hurt – when something violent happens to you, or even when you see something violent happening to people you care about.

This could include violent crime such as murder, hijacking, armed robbery, rape, someone being beaten up, or kidnapped, or other really scary events such as, abuse, suicide, someone dying or getting seriously hurt in an accident, violence and fighting in your home, school, or community or natural / unnatural disasters.

You can also be traumatised by hearing that someone you love is dying from a serious illness, or when someone you love or care about has died.

When experiences a traumatic event, they normally react by either trying to get away, trying to fight back or stop what is happening, or the person can’t do anything and feels ‘frozen’. These are normal and natural reactions for all humans (and animals), and are caused by chemicals and hormones in the brain and body.

Once the event is over the person’s body returns to normal but the feelings of being scared, terrified, horrified, and unsafe don’t go away straight away. Most people will have these feelings as well as horrible memories and thoughts, for a while after the event.  This is called Post-Traumatic Stress Response and is very normal.

Some of the things you might experience:

  • Nightmares
  • Feeling scared a lot, especially when something reminds them of the event, or when going to the place it happened
  • Feeling like nothing is safe, or that bad things are going to keep happening
  • Not wanting to go out, be with friends, play or do other things that they used to enjoy
  • Anger
  • Guilt – the feeling that maybe they were responsible for what happened
  • Wanting to get revenge
  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Not being able to eat or sleep normally
  • Not being able to concentrate at school

When these very normal feelings, thoughts and memories don’t go away, it is called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). When a person has PTSD, it means that these feelings, thoughts and memories affect their whole life, and stop them from doing the things they would normally do.

Sometimes PTSD can affect a person weeks, months or sometimes even years after the traumatic event.

The best thing to do is to speak to someone you trust about how you are feeling. You might speak to your parents or caregivers, or to a trusted family member or teacher. You can also call Childline on 116, and speak to one of our counsellors any time of the day or night.

It is also very helpful to go for counselling. Call Childline to make an appointment, or ask a trusted adult to call us.

If you have a friend who has been through a traumatic event, encourage them to speak to someone or call Childline. You can also show them this website so that they can understand that what they are feeling is normal, and that they can get help.

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