Trauma and Mental Health

Millions of Americans and their families feel the effects of trauma on mental health each year, and a portion of those people are survivors of sexual violence. Mental Health Awareness Month this May is a time to reflect on how to support those in your life who experience difficulties with mental health, reduce stigma around seeking treatment, and advocate for equal access to care.

Many survivors of sexual violence experience depression, PTSD, self-harm, eating disorders, flashbacks, and panic attacks. “It's crucial that we’re aware of the effects trauma can have on mental health,” said Keeli Sorensen, vice president of victim services at RAINN. A good way to support survivors living with the effects of trauma is to seek out information about what they may be going through and to let them know that you are there for them.

“If we speak openly and without judgment about mental health and show compassion, empathy, and understanding,” adds Sorensen, “together we can dismantle the environment of shame, fear, and silence that often prevents survivors from seeking support and help.”

Many survivors also speak to the importance of finding a therapist who they feel they connect with and who specializes in trauma from sexual violence. Practicing self care can also be an important first step—and ongoing process—in healing. “Every survivor’s healing journey is unique and there is no timetable for healing,” says Sorensen.

Check out RAINN’s resources for more information related to mental health:

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE and online.rainn.org, y en español: rainn.org/es.

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