Many people in the NWT live with the ongoing effects of past and present trauma. Those who have not received the necessary supports to recover often struggle with their individual health and wellbeing. Unaddressed trauma also affects families and communities. For example, a 2017 report by Pertice Moffitt and Heather Fikowski reveals how trauma has contributed to high rates of intimate partner and family violence in the NWT.
What is trauma?
Trauma results from situations that overwhelm a person's capacity to cope. These can include accidents and natural disasters, childhood abuse and neglect, sexualized violence, and intergenerational experiences, such as colonization and genocide.
There are many types of trauma and reactions to trauma. Trauma experienced in childhood is different from adult trauma, in part because of the way that the brain develops. Likewise, a single exposure to toxic stress, such as witnessing a car accident, produces different outcomes than chronic or repeated exposure to toxic stress, such as ongoing abuse, because the effects of trauma accumulate, or add up, over time.
Complex trauma has more widespread effects, is more common than single-incident trauma, and is harder to treat.
Intergenerational trauma is very common in the NWT, in part because of the large number of people that attended residential school. Intergenerational trauma is both individual and collective. "Intergenerational trauma is any trauma, including historical oppression, that has an impact across more than one generation. This impact includes shared collective memories that affect the health and well-being of individuals and communities and that may be passed on from parent to child, and beyond." (Jeffrey J. Schiffer)
What does it mean to be trauma-informed?
Being trauma-informed means that you have an awareness of what trauma is and how it can affect a person's ability to live. It also means that you are able to provide sensitive social support to people who are affected by trauma.
Becoming trauma-informed does not require clinical training or specialist skills.
Being trauma-informed is not the same as treating trauma, which does require specialized training, qualifications, and experiences.
What is the value of a trauma-informed approach?
You don't have to be a professional counsellor to use a trauma-informed approach. Everyone can benefit from being empathetic and respectful when they engage with people who have experienced trauma.
Research shows that positive social experiences can assist people in recovering from trauma, while negative interactions can delay healing.