Helping People Who Have Been Traumatized Feel Safe

We have discussed several aspects of the complex subject of trauma but have not yet touched on how to help a victim. It is difficult to know how to help a family member or friend who lives in trauma-induced fear feel safe, particularly if a crowded setting can trigger a traumatic event. In Creating Sanctuary, Dr. Sandra Bloom describes the importance of providing safety to alleviate this kind of fear and panic for a traumatized individual. One suggestion is to create a personal safety plan to help when someone is feeling anxious or unsafe.

Creating a personal safety plan

Emergency Exit sign
A personal safety plan provides a practical way to lessen fear and tension for a trauma victim.

Here are suggestions a traumatized individual can use to feel safe. The person can also offer suggestions to provide more comfortable in light of unique traumatic or anxiety-provoking triggers and cues.

  • Know where exits are located
  • Sit near a door
  • Look around to be sure other people seem safe
  • Think about ways to protect oneself if something scary or dangerous happens
  • Refuse to speak
  • Be prepared to leave the room
  • Picture a safe and peaceful spot one really likes
  • Sit near someone one feels safe being close to, someone who might protect her
  • Self-talk: think about what one is saying to him/herself and correct overreactive, untrue thoughts
  • Consider if he/she is overreacting because of something that happened to him/her some other time and place; change his/her thoughts to be more realistic
  • Tell someone he/she trusts if he/she starts to feel unsafe
  • Distract oneself by doodling; take notes, study things in the room, think about what she wants to have for dinner, tap a pen softly on one’s foot, rock, suck on a lifesaver
  • Breathe deeply
  • Relax one’s body
  • Pray-for oneself and for others
  • Close his/her eyes for a few minutes
  • Zone out and decide to not pay attention
Prayer, relaxation, deep breating and picturing a calm place will help relieve anxiety.

Supporting and caring for trauma victims

We communicate our support by helping someone intentionally create a personal safety plan and give that person practical ways to become less panicked and stressed about his/her surroundings. It is an effective way to help and care for those around us who may be struggling with the impact of trauma.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

Information taken from Deepening Trauma Awareness, Diane Wagenhals, 2008.  All rights reserved.  Licensed materials.


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