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New approaches for trauma care

Mark Trewin, Chair of the HEE New Roles in Mental Health Social work programme, explains why a trauma-informed approach is even more relevant now to the skills development of staff working in mental health.

The Covid-19 epidemic is posing significant mental health challenges for staff and communities, through exposure to distressing events and difficult ethical choices about how to sustain their wellbeing and survival. During our work to develop social work in mental health services, one of the issues we’ve heard many times is the need for a trauma-informed approach to mental health social work. This approach has always been important, as mental health issues are often influenced by the traumatic experiences of many of the people we work with as social workers. The Mental Health Act Review recognised assessment under the Act can be traumatic for many people and professionals need to develop a trauma-informed response.  

A key part of the HEE work on New Roles in Mental Health has been to create a multi-professional framework for trauma skill development. This has included consideration of the wide range of groups and individuals who have a stake in public health and social wellbeing. Trauma-informed practice is a strengths-based approach, which seeks to understand and respond to the impact of trauma on people’s lives. New approaches are concerned with how wider networks and communities can help.

Two linked projects are now underway. One project involves scoping for how a systemic framework might evolve in co-production with those who are experiencing and live with the consequences of social trauma. It considers the diverse roles in the system (starting with social workers and peer support workers) and their potential for inclusive practice and prevention. Topics under consideration are shared principles for working together, role clarity and staying in scope, training, supervision and ethical accountability, linking trauma support and community resilience. The second project involves developing a practice resource and team programme using Open Dialogue as set of principles for working in crisis situations that may have a trauma origin.