If you suffered abuse in childhood, you might be finding things especially difficult while the social restrictions to control the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) are in place. We’ll be sharing lots of useful information here and updating it regularly.
Are you concerned about wearing a mask?
We know some survivors are finding covering their own face or seeing the faces of others covered to be a triggering experience. The Survivors Trust has written a great article with useful resources, reflecting the latest guidance from the Government and including different face coverings and appropriate exception cards.
Safer travel guidance for passengers – from 15 June 2020
It is now the law that you must wear a face covering when travelling in England on public transport, including on buses and trains. A face covering is a covering of any type which covers your nose and mouth. This is a new law, and is in addition to the recommendations on social distancing and frequent hand washing.
Information about the new law is available online from GOV.UK, Guidance (Covid-19): safe travel guidance for passengers
There is also official Government guidance on how to wear and make a cloth face mask covering
The lockdown is more challenging for many survivors for a number of reasons:
– Anxiety, depression, feelings of panic or dissociation or other health impacts of trauma may become worse if you live alone
– Social distancing has cut people off from their support networks of friends or family or healthy coping routines such as activities and sport
– Being trapped at home may remind people of being trapped in an unsafe environment as a child and traumatic memories may surface
– People may not able to access their usual face-to-face support with a therapist or counsellor or support group
– People who live in busy homes with family members may find it harder to access support such as NAPAC’s telephone support line or online sessions with counsellors or therapists due to lack of privacy
– For those survivors still living with abusive family members, it may be impossible to access support of any kind during the lockdown
– Many of the people who are most vulnerable during this lockdown such as homeless people, prisoners, people with mental health or learning difficulties and people on low incomes are disproportionally likely to be survivors of childhood trauma
– The vast majority of survivors of abuse were controlled by people who claimed to care for them, so the lockdown will trigger inherent mistrust and make it much harder for survivors to comply with the order
– Frontline workers who are survivors who are compelled to work in conditions where they feel unsafe, this may also feel triggering. and they may be more likely to suffer vicarious trauma and / or PTSD
– Wearing and seeing others wearing face masks can be difficult and stressful, especially if your mouth or face has been covered by an abuser
– The additional police and security around can be triggering, heightening anxiety, especially as we understand it is difficult to know the right thing to do in different situations
The NHS Every Mind Matters campaign has tips on looking after yourself when you are cocooning at home to keep yourself and others safe. NHS Every Mind Matters Coronavirus (COVID-19) Staying at Home Tips
You may realise right away when you’re feeling under stress, but at other times you may not recognise the signs. Stress can affect you both emotionally and physically, and it can affect the way you behave. It may help to identify these feelings and know that they are normal Mind charity’s Signs of Stress information page.
Many people calling our support line are suffering from flashbacks, dissociation and poor sleep. Much of the popular understanding of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) comes as a result of media depictions, which show visual flashbacks and hallucinations of the incident. Researcher Claire Cunnington at the University of Sheffield has written a guest blog on complex PTSD and childhood trauma Claire Cunnington on complex PTSD and child sexual abuse
What is trauma?
Childhood abuse and neglect or repeatedly witnessing domestic violence are traumatic experiences for a child. They threaten our sense of physical or emotional safety or even our life and overwhelm our nervous system. The effects of the trauma are deepened if it’s not possible to escape the threat, which is naturally the case for children. Find out more on our FAQs page ‘What is Abuse and what is trauma?’ Common Concerns
It can be extremely empowering and healing to recognise that many of your overwhelming feelings are linked to chronic traumatic experiences in childhood rather than innate ‘defects’ or ‘disorders’. Read more about Trauma-informed Practice and why it matters
There are some common responses and experiences among abuse and other trauma survivors as a result of the current lockdown. This Psych Central blog gives an overview and offers suggestions on how we can take charge of our wellbeing. How the coronavirus pandemic is affecting trauma survivors
Dissociation is one way the mind copes with too much stress, such as during a traumatic event like abuse in childhood. If this is the way you coped with trauma in the past, you may dissociate now at times of stress. Experiences of dissociation can last for a relatively short time (hours or days) or for much longer (weeks or months). Read Mind’s information page on dissociation and dissociative disorders and tips on caring for yourself Mind on Dissociation
Overwhelming feelings and memories
If you suffered trauma in the past, stress can trigger a flashback. When memories come back, the child part in you is experiencing the past as if it were happening today. The extreme feelings and bodily sensations are so frightening because they are not related to the present and often seem to come out of the blue.
Grounding techniques can help you feel more in control. They’re especially useful if you experience dissociation during panic attacks. If you feel panicky, trapped or powerless as a result of a flashback, read or listen to our grounding techniques. NAPAC’s Flashbacks and Grounding tips in audio and to read
Traumatic events can cause complex PTSD. If you have complex PTSD you may be particularly likely to experience what some people call an ’emotional flashback’, in which you have intense feelings that you originally felt during the trauma, such as fear, shame, sadness or despair. You might react to events in the present as if they are causing these feelings, without realising that you are having a flashback. Read Mind Charity’s page on Complex PTSD
How to reduce self-harming behaviours
Self-harm for some people reduces the impact of overwhelming feelings for a short time. It is often triggered by stress, a reminder of a painful experience, or by flashbacks. What can you do to stop? We offer some tools to help you. NAPAC’s Common Concerns page
Reliable sources of information
Coping during the pandemic This free course has been developed by The Recovery College and NHS for everyone in response to the recent global pandemic. It will be regularly updated with the latest information and advice. Click here to take the course The Recovery College coronavirus page
There is information about how to:
- avoid catching and spreading the virus
- what immediate feelings you may have and
- common reactions, managing your mental health at this time
- managing isolation and social distancing,
- supporting children and young people
- accessible information.
What is a Recovery College? Recovery Colleges co-produce mental health and wellbeing training courses in partnership with the NHS. There are a number of Recovery Colleges running across the country. They offer educational courses about mental health and recovery which are designed to increase your knowledge and skills and to help you to feel more confident in self-management of your own mental health and well-being.
For the latest government information about health, employment, education, travel and business information, check here, content is updated frequently Government sources of up-to-date information on coronavirus (COVID-19)
IICSA and the Truth Project
An update from IICSA and the Truth Project: whilst private sessions in person are not possible currently, survivors of child sexual abuse can still share their experiences privately by telephone and in writing. Full details are on their website https://www.truthproject.org.uk/share-your-experience