Health + Wellness,  Here + Now

Let’s talk about trauma: Building strength and resilience through safe spaces

Trauma is an experience that differs from individual to individual, affecting lives in diverse ways. While some may be more open to discussing it, others may not wish to bring it up at all, as it can stem from the most upsetting, scarring, or challenging moments in our lives. Around one year ago, both the Danforth neighbourhood and the city of Toronto as a whole experienced trauma as a community—and, for many of us, the scars of these events remain. So, how can we practice the best self-care when we face trauma? How can we offer support to loved ones going through this trying experience? And what can we do, as a community, when we face trauma together? The answer, it seems, begins with creating a safe space for ourselves and our neighbours.

Thankfully, the Danforth is home to several safe spaces. 

The Professional Approach

When coping with trauma, the National Institute of Mental Health recommends talking to a healthcare professional. The Danforth neighbourhood and the city of Toronto have a number of healthcare facilities equipped to help sufferers. Broadview Psychology, Alternatives, Central Toronto Therapy, YouthCan Impact & EMYS Mental Health Walk-In Clinic, and Full Circle Art Therapy Centre are a few options in the Danforth area alone.

In a licensed mental health facility, services can include anything from talk therapy to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). According to Anxiety Canada, CBT focuses on sifting through certain memories or certain situations, rewiring how we remember them, and addressing the negative emotions or meanings we ascribe to these events. Many patients have reported successful results through CBT. However, when it comes to healthcare, there is no one-approach-fits-all. When in doubt, people are urged to talk to their doctors, who may be able to point them in the right direction for other services.

The Friends-and-Family Approach

Beyond the healthcare professional, there are steps that you, your friends, your family, and your neighbours can take to cultivate safe spaces. 

  1. Establish a support group in your community. Creating a space dedicated to well-being is a great step in ensuring that no one feels alone in the struggles they may be going through. Sharing a physical space to meet and discuss difficult experiences can help people grow and recover together. 
  2. Create a self-care plan. Strategies like WRAP (wellness recovery action plan) aim to equip individuals with a “wellness toolbox.” This is essentially a list of actions that we can take to better care for our mental health. A toolbox might include talking with a specific friend, remembering to book an appointment, taking time for exercise, or even engaging in hobbies that help you feel better or cope with what you’ve been going through. 
  3. Seek support on school campuses. If you are a student in need of help, be sure to check out your school’s guidance counselor or health and wellness office for support and information. Youth can also check out Kids Help Phone and Good 2 Talk, two anonymous over-the-phone and online services meant to provide a safe space for children and young adults to share their feelings.

Fostering a supportive and safe space in the community or on school campuses really comes down to our willingness to be there for one another, listen, and validate what the other person is saying. The stigma surrounding traumatic experiences won’t change overnight, but a community of good intentions paired with positive action can make a big difference in many people’s lives. To quote Dr. Seuss: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” 

Joshua Miller is a freelance writer and works in the youth mental health sector. Josh's work has him focusing on youth engagement principles applied in mental health research and services. Joshua writes about anime, books, campus life, and mental health. Having earned his BA (hons) in Arts Management at the University of Toronto, he has gone on to study in the post-graduate publishing program at Centennial College. Joshua previously led an arts-focused youth organization for almost 6 years aimed at providing a safe space for young artists struggling with mental illness or bullying.

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