While most people will experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives and recover over time, some will develop a condition called post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). PTSD is a group of symptoms that can occur as a response to experiencing a single traumatic event or a series of events. Some symptoms can include depression, anxiety, insomnia, agitation, flashbacks, nightmares and life-long health complications. The National Center for PTSD estimates that 5% of the US population suffer from PTSD.
The ability to recover from a traumatic event is called resilience. Resiliency is how well someone can adapt and "bounce back" from traumatic events. PTSD and resiliency are the most discussed reactions to traumatic events. But there is another response to tragedy that does not get very much attention, Post Traumatic Growth (PTG). Post Traumatic Growth is positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity.
"Post Traumatic Growth occurs when someone is ‘rocked to their core’ and is struggling internally to recover from a traumatic experience. While working through their psychological struggles during this distressful time, the person may question and explore their ideals and beliefs that have been challenged by the traumatic experience," states Dr. Desmonette Hazly, integrative health specialist. “As the person works through their confusion and despair, they are able to reach a turning point and gain strength from their struggle, make positive psychological changes and experience personal growth."
Dr. Hazly provides culturally inclusive trauma-informed health and wellness education and services and believes that many people who have experienced trauma suffer in silence. "People do not talk about the traumatic experiences that have happened to them for different reasons. Some may feel shame, others may not want to be labeled "traumatized" because they do not want to seem weak to others." Ultimately, many people do not seek supportive assistance because they think that no one will understand how they feel.
Dr. Hazly has extensively studied the effects of trauma and innovative treatment and recovery methods for trauma survivors at various institutions including Harvard Medical School and is involved in the school’s Global Mental Health Trauma and Recovery training program. "People want to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel when they have gone through something tragic. Dealing with a traumatic experience can have an impact on every aspect of your life and it can be very overwhelming."
Services that take the effects of trauma into consideration are important to the health and well-being of the community. Wellnest is an organization that provides services in South Los Angeles and Boyle Heights. Wellnest is currently co-located at White Memorial Hospital and hosts the Café con Pan health and wellness support group at this site. The program helps participants of the community address traumatic experiences on their own terms in ways that are most comfortable for them. "I truly believe that all individuals need a supportive network in order to thrive, whether it is family or community. Individuals need to feel safe, empowered, informed, supported, and guided to live healthy, productive, and successful lives," states Betty Mendoza, LCSW and Associate Director of Outpatient Services for Wellnest at White Memorial Hospital. Mendoza collaborates with Dr. Hazly to provide ongoing community health workshops that promote mental and physical well-being and culturally relevant self-care.
As we navigate traumatic experiences that happen in our lives, it is important to know that there is something beyond just "getting through it." You can be stronger than you were before and you can grow. Dr. Hazly has some basic tips to support your journey to growth after experiencing a traumatic event:
Get Assistance from a Mental Health Professional
It is important to get additional support after experiencing a traumatic event. A counselor or therapist can help you explore their feelings in a safe space as they navigate what has happened to you and provide tools for healing and self-care.
Educate Yourself about the Effects of Trauma and Resources That Are Available
Understanding how traumatic events impact someone’s life and exploring various resources that are available to assist with healing and growth can be empowering. Knowing that developing PTSD is not the end of the story when someone experiences a traumatic event can be uplifting and inspire a strive to thrive for a life beyond a traumatic experience.
Connect With Others
Identifying people in your life you can trust and feel comfortable with is important for the healing process. Having someone in your life who can support and comfort you through your journey of healing allows you to speak honestly about your feelings and experiences. You are more likely to allow yourself to be vulnerable and open to personal growth when you have someone who provides compassionate feedback and insight and supports your progress and development.
If you are coping with difficult experiences that have happened in your life and could benefit from additional support, the following organizations are here to help:
- Wellnest: 323-545-3522
- Tesse Cleveland: 323-586-7333
- Augustus Hawkins: 310-668-4272
- Kedren Community Mental: 323- 233-0425
- Enki: 323-261-4099
- Percy Village: 323-268-2100
- VIP Community Mental Health Center: 323-221-4134