Kids' Health
Visit website  
Home › Topics › Your Health > 


afraid; fear; danger; accident; disaster; counselling; adrenalin; trauma; post; traumatic; stress; disorder; feelings;


What is trauma?

Trauma is when something happens to you which can harm you. This harm might be to your body (an injury) or to your mind (it makes you very frightened). This topic is about trauma to your mind.

saying good-bye to a loved one 

What can cause trauma?

There are many causes of trauma. These are a few of them:

  • being involved in an accident
    car accident
  • someone you care for being hurt
  • parents splitting up
  • a sudden death in the family
  • being involved in a natural disaster eg. flood, fire, earthquake, tsunami
  • finding out that you or someone you love has a bad disease, eg. cancer
  • having a near death experience, eg. getting out of your depth when swimming or being badly injured in a road accident
  • being abused physically, emotionally or sexually
  • watching very violent or sexually explicit movies
  • ongoing bullying.

What are the effects of trauma?

After something really bad has happened it is normal for people to have reactions like these:

  • You may feel numb or as if things are happening at a distance from you. Everything seems unreal. You are aware of what is happening around you but you don't feel involved.
    feel numb
  • You may find it difficult to do anything at first.
  • You may feel like you want to sleep much more than usual.
  • overcome with thoughtsYou may be so overcome by thoughts of what has happened that you cannot think of anything else and find it hard to concentrate at school. 
  • You may want to be alone or be afraid to be alone.
  • You may cry a lot.
  • You may find it hard to sleep.
  • You may have nightmares and be afraid to sleep.
  • You may be afraid for yourself and others you care for.
  • You may want to stay away from anywhere or anything which reminds you of what happened.
  • You may feel very angry and act in an angry way to people around you.
  • You may block out what has happened and refuse to think about it.

Usually these bad feelings get less as time passes, but sometimes they can last for a long while, or they may come back when something else scary happens.

If you have lost someone or something that was very important to you, you will experience grief. Have a look at the topic 'Grieving – working through loss'.

Post traumatic stress disorder

remembering over and over what happenedSome people have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when they remember the trauma over and over again and they find it hard to get on with their lives.

In days gone by PTSD was not recognised. Soldiers coming back from war suffered terribly and dared not say anything for fear of being thought unmanly. People who had endured disaster were expected to get over it and get on with life by themselves.

manage the trauma by yourself

If kids were involved in some disaster the usual idea was to "leave them alone - they're young enough to get over it quickly".  

But experiencing trauma can affect some people for the rest of their lives unless they are given the help and support they need.

trauma can affect the rest of your life

What to do when you have experienced trauma  

The first thing to do is to talk.

  • Talk to parents, carers or other members of the family.
  • Talk to others who were involved in the event.
  • Talk to trusted adults.

Then, as much as you can, keep on doing the normal things that you do, such as going to school and hanging out with friends.

  • If you find that the feelings and thoughts keep coming back and you can't get on with your life, talk to health professionals like your doctor, nurse or school counsellor. Your doctor may refer you to a psychologist.
    if the feelings and thoughts keep coming back, talk to a health professional

You could call the Kids Helpline on Kid's Helpline 1800 55 1800 (it doesn't cost any money to call the helpline).                         

If you don't live in Australia, do a search on the internet to find the number of your kid's helpline.

How you can help yourself

  • Try to get plenty of rest at night and keep busy during the day. Remind yourself that things will get better with time
  • Eat healthy food.
  • Exercise. It is good to exercise as your body produces the 'feel good' chemicals called endorphins and you will be better able to cope.
  • Do things which make you feel good like spending time with friends, playing music, sport and dance.
  • Remind yourself that things will get better with time.
  • Get help. You do not have to cope all by yourself.

Here are some topics which may help you.

   - Stress - learning to relax
   - Anxiety - when you are worrying about things
Counselling - when you need to talk about it
Grieving - working through loss

Kids say

  • "My sister and her friends were in a car when it rolled over. One friend was killed, 2 others were in hospital for a while. My sister is very sad and was scared of going in the car for a long time."
  • "I was really upset when my dad said he was leaving us and going to live with his girlfriend. Mum was crying and everyone was shouting. I still dream about it."
  • "When mum told me she had cancer and would not be able to live until I was grown up we talked a lot. I could talk with the chaplain at school and my teacher was really nice. It didn't stop the hurt but it helped."
  • "I woke up on the floor and the house was shaking. Me and my brother ran to mum and hid under her doona. There was a loud noise like the wind. It was an earthquake but it didn't knock the house down."

Dr Kate says

Dr KateNowadays in Australia, trauma counselling is a lot easier to get hold of. You probably have a counsellor at your school or church, and many teachers and coaches have training in counselling.

Millions of kids in other countries suffer trauma and have no one to help them - you do. Ask for help - you do not need to manage on your own.

trauma trauma
back to top

We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


Home › Topics › Your Health >