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Time to talk about psychological trauma

Crystal Oldman on how trauma can affect health outcomes

On 5 July, the QNI delivered a conference at the Passage homeless charity on the management of psychological trauma as part of our Homeless Health programme, co-funded by the Oak Foundation.

The programme of speakers was inspiring, thoughtful, informative, motivating and moving. The research underpinning the clinical approaches to supporting individuals who have experienced psychological trauma provided a perfect start to the day and the evidence base of the ‘psychologically informed environment’ was a theme that ran throughout the conference.

The issue of childhood trauma impacting on health outcomes in subsequent years was clearly explained and left many practitioners concerned about the diminishing number of health visitors.

They are the main support for so many families with young children who have experienced psychological trauma, including homelessness, domestic violence and the impact of female genital mutilation.

Many presenters illustrated the success of those interventions and the importance of understanding the origin of the trauma.

Kolbassia Haoussou shared his heart-breaking story of torture and his escape from Chad, Central Africa, 12 years ago and the impact this had on his physical and mental health.

Kolbassia advised the audience that many people from African countries avoid discussing mental health issues because of a lack of recognition of mental illness in parts of Africa and cultural assumption that the symptoms indicate ‘possession’ by an evil spirit.

Kolbassia is co-founder of the Survivors Speak Out network, providing a voice for victims of torture in the UK. He has used his experience as a positive motivator to help others who have experienced physical and psychological trauma to share their stories and to influence policy.

The day touched on systems and approaches to support members of the workforce, who can be deeply affected by working with people with psychological trauma.

A presentation from the Point of Care Foundation on Schwartz Rounds was compelling and inspirational. The evidence of its impact left members of the audience in no doubt that this is a powerful approach to building resilience and the sense of team within the workforce.

Dr Crystal Oldman is the chief executive of the Queen's Nursing Institute