Mental health and complex trauma

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One25 posted this on 15/05/2023

One25 exists to support women who have experienced trauma – from sexual violence to having children removed from their care. This Mental Health Awareness Week we’re exploring the complex links between trauma and mental ill health – and how healing looks different for everyone.

Last year, 92% of the 234 women we worked with had significant mental health needs.

Understanding trauma

Traumatic experiences can have a detrimental impact on mental health: women can experience flashbacks to distressing events and many use drugs and alcohol to cope with painful feelings and memories.

Local services don’t always consider how traumatic experiences can affect the way that women engage with them: for example, a ‘routine’ sexual health examination can be anything but routine for a woman who has experienced assault.

Piling up

Challenges such as addiction and homelessness can also negatively impact mental health. Now the COVID pandemic and cost-of-living crisis have piled on further pressures for women to manage, including financial hardship and fuel poverty.

Recovery is rarely a linear process and it’s easy to believe that things can’t change for the better. When Zara reflected on her experience of addiction, she told us: “I’d been trying and failing for so long – part of me thought I was too broken.”

woman walking on the shore at sunset

By her side: Zara’s story

Zara described the process of detoxing from drugs and the relationship between addiction and mental health: “I never accounted for the depression and the continual cravings – and my mental health fell apart.”

With support from our Recovery Caseworker, Zara completed rehab and began to safely process traumatic experiences from her past. She said: “there were loads of times when I wanted to run but instead I faced it.”

Every woman’s experience is different: our caseworkers are here to support women to take the steps that are right for them: identifying goals and building relationships with services.

Bristol’s ‘hidden’ women

We sometimes hear women like Zara described as ‘hidden’, as they aren’t connected to local support services. But this doesn’t recognise the barriers they face to accessing these services, such as stigma around street sex-working, not having a fixed address – or experiencing mental ill health.

Every woman should be able to get the support she needs, with love and without judgement.

No woman should be forgotten.

Make a gift to One25 today and support women like Zara to create the lives they want to live.

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