Staff training to recognise signs of trauma

Shumela Ahmed
Image caption Shumela Ahmed has first-hand experience of how trauma-aware staff can help change people's lives

Receptionists, pharmacists and housing office workers are among a range of staff to be trained in trauma support.

Described as "gatekeepers", the workers will be trained to recognise the signs of trauma and to think differently about "difficult" customers.

The hope is that better understanding will lead to more effective services.

The Scottish Psychological Trauma Training Plan will see the training given to those outside health or social work roles for the first time.

One in five

Employers will be encouraged to develop programmes to put staff in a better position to help people who often have their adult lives blighted by abuse they suffered as a child.

It is estimated about one in five adults in Scotland have experienced some form of trauma in childhood, such as sexual abuse, domestic abuse or neglect.

Those experiences have been shown to be significant risk factors for poor health and wellbeing and reduced life chances over the course of a lifetime.

Image copyright NHS Scotland
Image caption The trauma training programme has produced videos for staff to understand what people may have gone through and how they feel about approaching services

Shumela Ahmed, from the Resilience Learning Partnership, said the effects of the proposed frontline training could be significant.

"We believe that doctors' receptionists, pharmacy staff - those people who might not think it is within their role to deal with people who have experienced trauma - they are actually gatekeepers to the services that a lot of people who have experienced trauma need to access," she said.

"If someone came in who was aggressive, or not very patient, a receptionist might just think they are non-cooperative.

"The training might allow that staff member instead of asking 'what is wrong with that person', to ask 'what has happened to that person'?

"It makes people think a bit differently. It helps them be more understanding, empathetic, more switched on to the issues some of these people will have experienced in their lives."

Ms Ahmed added: "If you are managing to get these people in the door and have staff who are welcoming and make it feel like it is somewhere they should be, then you start to get people trusting and engaging in a service and getting the benefits of what that service can give them."

Image caption Jeane Freeman thinks staff who are trauma-trained can do their jobs more effectively

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said someone's experience of trauma impacted on their capacity to access services.

'Found trust'

She added: "So the frontline staff - it could be in social security, it could be in health - if they understand the impact of trauma on adults, then that helps them do their job.

"Scotland is ahead of the other countries in the UK and globally we are one of the leading countries in terms of recognising the importance of this work."

Ms Ahmed experienced the care system as a teenager and said professionals knowing how to deal with her turned her own life around.

She added: "Six or seven years ago I decided to re-engage with my education and unbeknownst to me, I attended a university that used trauma-informed practices. That's where I found trust in authority and in professionals again. "

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