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The Trauma Service supports children in Bedfordshire and Luton who have been affected by distressing events, such as sexual abuse, domestic abuse, assault or witnessing an accident. We support children and young people who have experienced a death of someone they knew in a traumatic way, like murder, suicide or other sudden death. We are also working with child refugees or asylum seekers to help them sort out the upsetting events they have experienced as they fled their home country to come to the UK. Following such experiences, children and young people may show signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Children may experience upsetting memories that seem to play over and over in their minds and can cause changes in mood, behavioural problems, anxiety, and disturb their sleep.


The Trauma Service aims to deliver the most effective treatment based on the available clinical and research evidence.  Currently, we offer Trauma-focused CBT, EMDR, Art therapy and integrative therapy. We continually monitor and evaluate the service we provide.


Referrals for trauma can be made directly through the normal route. A decision will then be made by CHUMS practitioners as to whether the young person is appropriate for the specialist Trauma service. We would usually then get in contact to discuss the best way to support you.


  • What is psychological trauma?

  • How may you react?

  • How you may feel

  • What can you do for yourself?

  • What not to do

  • Helping children after a traumatic event

  • Supporting your child

  • How to get help – useful numbers and websites.

What is psychological trauma?

A psychological trauma can occur when you have experienced either a single event, long lasting event, or repeated events that are so overwhelming that it affects your ability to cope or make sense of what happened. Examples of traumatic events include:

  • Serious accidents, e.g. road traffic collision
  • Loss and grief issues
  • Being told you have a life threatening (terminal) illness
  • Physical, emotional or sexual abuse
  • Neglect
  • Natural or man-made disasters
  • Being taken hostage
  • Bullying

How you may react

Typical reactions that you may feel after a traumatic event include:

  • Constantly thinking about the event.
  • Images of the events keep coming into your mind (known as flashbacks).
  • Difficulty sleeping and/or nightmares.
  • Changes in how you feel emotionally, e.g. frightened, depressed, anxious, angry.
  • Avoiding certain situations that remind you of the event.
  • Feeling numb, stunned, shocked or dazed and having difficulties connecting with life around you.
  • Denial that the event actually happened.
  • Concentration and memory problems.

How you may feel

You may feel a wide range of emotions, including:

  • Angry – in relation to what happened to you and with the person who was responsible.
  • Guilty – that you think you could or should have done something to prevent what happened (that you feel you were to blame), or that you survived when others suffered or died.
  • Frightened – that the same event may happen again or that you feel you are unable to cope with your feelings; that you are not in control of what is going on in your life.
  • Helpless – that you were unable to do something about what happened.
  • Sad – that the trauma happened or that someone was injured or killed, especially if you knew them.
  • Ashamed or embarrassed – by what happened and that you feel you cannot tell anyone about it.

In most cases, the emotional reactions get better over the days and weeks that follow a trauma. However, in some cases the effects of a trauma can be longer lasting and continue for months and even years after the event. Receiving the appropriate type of support can help you come to terms with the traumatic experience so that it does not continue to affect you for the rest of your life.

What you can do for yourself

  • At the beginning it is a good idea to allow yourself time to adjust and come to terms with what has happened. You may need to grieve for someone you have lost and process what has happened to you.
  • It can help to find out more details of what happened and where relevant, to talk through the event with other survivors and discuss the feelings you have.
  • Talking through the event with a supportive family member or friend at your own pace can be beneficial.
  • Try and get back into a routine with your sleeping and eating.

If you identify particular times in the day that are more distressing, it could help to try and distract yourself at these times with a positive activity.

Ideas include:

  • Talking or phoning someone
  • Watching TV or being on a computer
  • Doing exercise
  • Playing a game or doing a hobby
  • Writing down what you are thinking or feeling.

What not to do

  • Do not keep your feelings to yourself or bottle them up. Find someone supportive that you can trust to share these feelings with (family members, friends, teachers).
  • Do not overburden yourself with other activities. Take some time to look after yourself and nurture yourself.
  • It is not advisable to use drugs or alcohol as a way of coping as this can make symptoms worse.

Helping Children After a Traumatic Event

You may notice changes in your child’s behaviour or feelings, which can vary dependant on different ages and stages of development. Some examples of typical responses include:

Children age 5 and under may:

Children age 6 to 11 may:

Adolescents age 12 to 17 may:

• Show signs of fear
• Cling to parent or caregiver
• Cry, scream, or whimper
• Move aimlessly or become immobile
• Return to behaviours common at a younger age, such as thumb sucking or bedwetting
• Lose interest in friends, family, and fun activities
• Have nightmares or other sleep problems
• Become irritable, disruptive, or angry
• Struggle with school and homework
• Complain of physical problems
• Develop unfounded fears
• Feel depressed, emotionally numb, or guilty over what happened
Have flashbacks to the event, nightmares, or other sleep problems
Avoid reminders of the event
Abuse drugs, alcohol, or tobacco
Act disruptively, disrespectfully, or destructively
Have physical complaints
Feel isolated, guilty, or depressed;
Lose interest in hobbies and interests
Have suicidal thoughts

Source: National Institute of Mental Health 

Supporting Your Child

  • Children and teenagers will benefit from your reassuring touch—extra cuddling, hugs or just a gentle pat on the back. It gives them a feeling of security and makes them feel safe.
  • Act calm. Children look to adults for reassurance after traumatic events and can pick up on another person’s anxiety.
  • Maintain your usual routines and family rules, such as mealtimes and bedtimes, where possible; this can reassure them that life will be okay.
  • Play. Encourage kids to do activities and play with others. The distraction is good for them.
  • Choose times to talk. Share information about what happened. Allow children to ask questions.
  • Prevent or limit exposure to news coverage. Seeing disturbing events on TV, in the newspaper or on the radio can make them seem to be ongoing.
  • Children cope in different ways. Let your child know it is normal to experience anger, guilt and sadness, and to express things in different ways – for example, a person may feel sad but not cry.
  • Listen and try to understand how your child views the situation. Do not lecture—just be understanding. Let kids know it is OK to tell you how they are feeling at any time.
  • Breathing exercises to relax. Breathing becomes shallow when anxiety sets in; deep belly breaths can help children calm down. You can hold a feather or a wad of cotton in front of your child’s mouth and ask him to blow at it, exhaling slowly. Or you can say, “Let’s breathe in slowly while I count to three, then breathe out while I count to three.” Place a stuffed animal or pillow on your child’s belly as he lies down and ask him to breathe in and out slowly and watch the stuffed animal or pillow rise and fall.
  • Acknowledge what your child is feeling. If a child admits to a concern simply confirm what you are hearing: “Yes, I can see that you are worried.”
  • Know that it’s okay to answer, “I don’t know.” What children need most is someone whom they trust to listen to their questions, accept their feelings, and be there for them. Don’t worry about knowing exactly the right thing to say — after all, there is no answer that will make everything okay.

(based on information from

How to get help

Some people recover from a trauma with no or little additional support, especially if symptoms are mild. However, many people can develop chronic symptoms that can be long lasting. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the name given to describe these symptoms.
Psychological support can be very effective in helping people with PTSD.
Therapies available include Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and trauma focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (tf-CBT).
It is important that you visit your GP as soon after a trauma as possible. They can help to signpost you to the most appropriate early support or more specialist psychological services if symptoms persist.

Additional Support and Resources

Anyone can contact the organisations below to get advice and help for a child:
• Childline: 0800 111

Useful Websites call 0808 800 2222 for emotional support, information, advice and guidance on any aspect of parenting and family life

Online Information Guides

• Helping children cope after a traumatic event:

• Parenting a Child Who Has Experienced Trauma:


All children have the right to be safe from abuse and neglect. If we hear that a child is at risk of harm, we will work to ensure they are safe.