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Dealing with Trauma

Trauma is the emotional reaction that is caused by exposure to traumatic events, e.g. to actual or threatened death and serious injury or sexual violation amongst others. If you feel that you may be traumatized and need to feel safe and take care of yourself: obtain support, find appropriate outlets for your emotions, and continue with your routines as far as possible with the awareness that you may not necessarily feel like yourself for a while. Once you have settled and are more aware of your needs and emotions, you may feel the need for further support and may then seek counselling.

Keep in mind that counselling is recommended if you are not able to study or cope with your routine activities; if you find yourself unable to cope with your daily activities, if your symptoms are still severe and ongoing and/or if you find yourself turning to inappropriate sources of comfort, like drugs or alcohol.

These are symptoms that are related to trauma:

  • Intrusion or Re-experiencing (of the trauma) – includes: intrusive thoughts or memories; Nightmares related to the traumatic event; Flashbacks (feeling like the event is happening again).
  • Negative alterations in mood or cognitions - which can include: Memory problems that are exclusive to the event; Negative thoughts or beliefs about one’s self or the world; Distorted sense of blame for one’s self or others, related to the event; Being stuck in severe emotions related to the trauma (e.g. horror, shame, sadness); Severely reduced interest in pre-trauma activities; Feeling detached, isolated or disconnected from other people.
  • Increased arousal symptoms - Symptoms here include: Difficulty concentrating; Irritability, increased temper or anger; Difficulty falling or staying asleep; Hypervigilance; Being easily startled.
  • Avoidant symptoms - these include: Avoiding thoughts or feelings connected to the traumatic event; Avoiding people or situations connected to the traumatic event.

Please note: if these symptoms persist for longer than four weeks, and seriously affect your ability to function, you may be developing PTSD (post- traumatic stress disorder).  Please discuss this possibility with a trained professional.

Read Coping strategies after trauma

Additional information: 

Emergency & After Hours contacts:

  • LifeLine (24 hours) 011 728 1347 or 0861 322 322
  • South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) (08h00-20h00)
     - SADAG Helpline : 0800 12 13 14 or SMS 32312
     - SADAG Suicide Crisis Line 800 567 567 or SMS 31393
  • Akeso Psychiatric Response Unit (24 Hour) 0861 4357

If you have experienced a rape or sexual assault and were potentially exposed to HIV, please visit MilPark Hospital emergency unit within 72 hours (9 Guild Rd, Parktown), for their free sexual assault service. In an emergency, after hours, contact Campus Control on (011) 717-4444. The Wits Gender Equity Office can also help. Contact the GEO helpline on 011 717 9790 or 076 827 4001. 

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