Understanding the Early Support Needs of Survivors of Traumatic Events: The Example of Severe Injury Survivors

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Objective: In the aftermath of a potentially traumatic event, people may experience a range of mental health outcomes, including subclinical symptoms and distress. There is growing evidence that trauma survivors with subclinical symptoms are at increased risk of developing later psychiatric disorders, and this is especially the case with severe injury survivors. There is a need to develop evidence-based, early, brief interventions for those who are at risk of developing trauma-related psychopathology. To date, interventions for this at-risk group have largely been derived from expert consensus. This study therefore aimed to understand the early psychosocial difficulties and perceived needs from the perspective of trauma survivors to further inform intervention development. Method: Forty-three survivors of a serious injury, identified as high risk for developing trauma-related psychopathology, were interviewed and qualitative methods (Thematic Analysis) were used to synthesize the data gathered. Results: Participants described 5 main stressors: trauma-related psychological reactions, relationship stress, unsatisfactory services and support systems, reduced functioning, and negative thoughts and emotions in relation to recovery. In addition, participants described 3 main factors that were helpful in recovery: positive coping, professional support, and social support. Conclusions: These findings can inform posttrauma intervention development for those at risk of later psychological symptoms. In particular, the results support approaches focusing on promoting activity, supporting social relationships, stress and arousal management, and cognitive restructuring. In addition, future interventions might helpfully target rumination, worry, and reexperiencing symptoms.

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