Trauma and Mental Illness

I’ve snitched the information below from a news article I published at HealthCentral in September 2015 before my job as the Health Guide there ended.

In light of the horrific news accounts about the ongoing hate and violence and killing in the world I wanted to reprint it in a shortened version here.


The Mental Health Empowerment Project (MHEP) defines trauma as “extreme stress brought on by shocking or unexpected circumstances or events that overwhelm a person’s ability to cope.”

SAMHSA lists three “E” components to a traumatic event:

 1. Events and circumstances which cause trauma. 2. The person’s Experience of these events determines if the event is traumatizing. 3. The Effects of the traumatic event on the individual, which includes adverse physical, social, emotional, or spiritual consequences.

I experienced a micro-trauma in graduate school when I was the victim of a racial attack. I was waiting on line in an Eddie Bauer store and out of nowhere this six feet tall guy clocked me aggressively with his mouth.

Before this happened I had no idea that a total stranger could hate me when I’d not ever met him before and did nothing to provoke him.

These cognitive behavior therapy techniques can help:

Exposure therapy.

Being exposed to the trauma in a safe way via trips to the scene of the occurrence, mental imagery, or writing.

Cognitive restructuring.

Changing your perception about what happened to understand it in a realistic way.

Stress inoculation training.

Reducing PTSD symptoms by teaching a person how to reduce anxiety.

Another option is using medication such as Paxil or Zoloft.

Possible coping skills for stress and trauma when you have an MI:

Do things that are healthy that make you feel good.

A therapist told me I should save money every week to do something I enjoy like get a pedicure or see a movie.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Healing your pain can be as simple as taking action to become an activist to help others. This can give your life purpose.

Focus on making friends with positive people who won’t be jealous of you or abuse you.

Refrain from reading the comments section below Internet news articles.

Anonymity can bring out the cruelty in people.

Avoid the impulse to click on links to websites or blogs that stir you up emotionally.

Two important takeaways about having trauma when you have an MI:

The trauma is real, regardless of the degree of severity of the original event.

The impact of micro-trauma and other trauma on people with mental illnesses is real and can’t be discounted:

“Mentally ill individuals are fifteen times more likely to be assaulted, twenty-three times more likely to be raped, and one hundred forty times more likely to experience property theft than the general population.”

– Cornell Law School Journal


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