A local survivor of childhood sexual abuse has helped to develop a new Essex-wide initiative to support trauma survivors.
Brightlingsea man John Wills, 57, came up with the idea of creating trauma cards, which can be handed to a healthcare professional when a cardholder finds themselves in a triggering situation.
A therpist and member of the Healthwatch Essex Trauma Ambassador Group, John’s discussions with other members revealed that it was common to experience trauma being triggered in unexpected situations, such as at a dentist or during a health check.
He said: “I carry the trauma card because I really need health professionals to understand that some of these situations are really quite difficult for me and make me very anxious. Sometimes there isn’t the opportunity to open the conversation up about this subject, so simply by handing over the card it starts the dialogue.”
John added: “I hope it will allow health professionals feel able to ask me what I need as a survivor of trauma. They forget just how traumatic and triggering some of these procedures can be for someone who has suffered trauma.”
The card has a QR code which, when scanned, provides more information to the healthcare professional about what the individual is experiencing and how best to help them. Healthwatch Essex says the cards will be used in GPs surgeries, hospitals, dentists and a wide variety of environments where people access health or care support.
The Trauma Ambassador Group exists to help improve health and care environments for people who are living with the effects of trauma. The group’s members have all experienced trauma, with a wide variety of different causes – ranging from domestic abuse, sexual abuse, exposure to crime and bereavement. Trauma is considered very much an individual reaction and there is no exhaustive list of causes.
Michelle Wilkinson, an advanced nurse practitioner at Beacon House, Colchester said: “I know these cards will be very helpful to many of the people I see day to day. Often because of their background – domestic violence, abuse, war or veteran’s services – there may be sounds or noises that affect them in a way that we wouldn’t appreciate.
“The card just gives us a heads up – an introduction that this patient might shut down within a certain situation. We can then use this to look at the website to give us tips and clues as to how to make the journey better for the patient. Things like offering a quiet area, double appointments, reducing distractions and sounds, may make this a more positive experience for our patients.”
• To get a trauma card or to find out more about Healthwatch Essex and the Trauma Ambassador Group, visit www.healthwatchessex.org.uk/trauma or call 0300 500 1895.