The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

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Tell us your views on the working definition of trauma. What do you like about the definition, and what changes do you suggest?

Working definition accurate, but not precise

I appreciate the current working definition for "trauma". I also know that there is much work to do to enhance the definition so that it is more broadly accepted and more well-defined.

As a trauma survivor, no one has to tell me what the definition should be. I feel the effects quite often, both individually and within my community. This was the case on 2 July 1984.

At age 10, I witnessed my mother, Jacqueline and my 12 year-old brother, Anthony, get shot and killed by my mother's estranged boyfriend, Marshall. Marshall took his own life that day, but not before he made me beg for my life at gunpoint. With a huge network and support system, I survived. Without it, I wouldn't be alive today.

It is within the context of past trauma that I make my comments today. I also recognise the voice of those who have not a voice today. I honour the silent victims and survivors who struggle each day, putting one foot in front of the other, to strive and do the best they can with the tools or lack of tools they have. There is hope, help, recovery and healing.

Thinking positively leads me to my view of the working definition for trauma.

Let's start with the positive so that we focus on what is strong about the definition for trauma.

POSITIVE

i. I appreciate that the individual can experience an event or "series of events" or "set of circumstances". This provides the context for the requirement of a stimulus in order for the individual to have a response. It is key to understand that some individuals do not respond to an event in the same way. What may be traumatic for one person may not be traumatic for the other person. There may be some other factors that also hinder a response to a stimulus such as a disability, etc.

ii. it is important to include "physically" and "emotionally". Often missing is the emotional impact that a harmful or threatening event has on a person. The media, in 1984, mentioned in a news report that I was "physically safe, but was unhurt". The idea that I was "unhurt" when witnessing such violence is untrue. The media and other entities, systems, institutions, organisations and individuals need to see both representations in the definition.

ii. trauma has "lasting adverse effects on the individual's physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being" is also a requirement for this definition to be true, in my opinion. trauma may precipitate a "moral crisis" and have a lasting effect. Often, many do not acknowledge trauma's effect on the "spiritual well-being". It's important to include.

CONSTRUCTIVE

Currently, I do not recommend any word changes. I will note that organisations such as the NCTSN make valid points regarding the passiveness of the definition. In addition to other feedback, it is imperative to continue the dialogue, even in increments as planned.

We have a major opportunity to help define trauma, however, the opportunity lies in the ability for the definition to educate others around the issue of trauma.

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    William KellibrewWilliam Kellibrew shared this idea  ·   ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →

    2 comments

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      • Jayne Mullins Jayne Mullins commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I'm not going to let this pass without recognizing the pain and suffering poured out in just these few sentences that had me googling to find 'the rest of the story'. That Mr. Kellibrew was able to not only survive multiple traumas in his life, but to now work to bring awareness about the devastating effects of domestic violence and murder on survivors speaks to his strength and character. Be well, Mr. Kellibrew and know that you standing up?...it makes a difference. Solidarity.

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