For lots of people who have experienced homelessness, understanding the effects of trauma can be really important. We know from our own research that incidents of past trauma are higher in this group. When these incidents aren’t addressed it can lead to other difficulties including wider mental health challenges and PTSD. This in turn can feed into cycles of homelessness.
What is trauma?
Some things are generally traumatic for anybody, like being in abusive situations or having your life threatened. However, trauma is not just what happens, but also how our mind and body interpret what has happened.
Whether it’s physical trauma or more emotional things like bullying or neglect, how your mind and body understand an experience is key. If it seems dangerous and you feel under threat, then it can be traumatizing.
The lasting effects of this can include things like hypervigilance, hyperawareness, and a constant feeling of being unsafe. Things that remind you of the trauma can also be triggering; the body can remember trauma, and when triggered it can hijack your nervous system, making you feel like it’s happening again. Long term this can lead to wider mental health issues, and shape people’s behavior in ways they may not even fully understand.
What can we do?
It may not be easy, but it is possible to overcome trauma. Being aware of the feelings it creates, and what triggers them, is the first thing. Once you can identify what’s happening, mindfulness and grounding techniques can keep you in the present and move the trauma from ‘now’ to ‘the past’, helping you feel safe.
Therapeutic techniques like these can help to build confidence and control. They allow people challenge the belief that they’re still under threat, identify replace that with beliefs that they want to have instead. By doing that, we can help people to feel empowered, and begin breaking harmful cycles of behavior and thought. For people whose past experiences may feed into cycles of behavior linked to homelessness, this can be incredibly valuable.
For more information on how we support people impacted by trauma and PTSD, see our Health + Wellbeing Programme.