Mental health services need to better respond to the needs of people living with complex trauma, new report shows

Australia’s National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma, Blue Knot Foundation, in collaboration with BEING – Mental Health Consumers – NSW’s peak independent organisation speaking with and for people with experience of mental health issues and emotional distress have today released a Complex Trauma Spotlight Report.

Commissioned by the National Mental Health Commission, Blue Knot Foundation and BEING – Mental Health Consumers, have prepared the Living with and Healing from Complex Trauma report.

In recognition that there is a significant need to build awareness of the often chronic, and largely unmet, mental health needs of people living with the long-term impacts of complex trauma, the Spotlight report will officially launch today, on Thursday the 18th February.

The report is informed by the voices of people living with the mental health impacts of complex trauma i.e., repeated often extreme ongoing interpersonal (between people) trauma. It integrates lived experience evidence with the latest clinical and research evidence to better inform practitioners and services within the mental health and related sectors about complex trauma, its impacts and their relationship to mental distress.

The report promotes understanding around complex trauma and its impacts and possibilities for healing and recovery. In particular, the Spotlight Report honours the experiences of people living with complex trauma, their engagement with the system and, the ways in which the system responds to their needs.

Despite significant advances, including an array of research dedicated to complex trauma, the report’s findings highlight the all too frequent gaps between people’s needs and the system’s capacity to meet them, to support healing and recovery and to minimise experiences of re-traumatisation.

As outlined in the report, the public health issue of complex trauma has been long ignored. Blue Knot and BEING – Mental Health Consumers are urging for knowledge from lived experience, practice and research to inform services and practice, in order to reduce mental distress and sense of hopelessness and helplessness.

Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, President of Blue Knot Foundation, has emphasised that the Report offers hope for people who have been abused, violated, neglected or exploited, emphasising the need to compassionately embed up-to-date insights to foster the change needed to enhance safety, healing and wellbeing of those impacted.

“This report is another significant step in highlighting the pressing need for services and practitioners to listen, hear and respond compassionately and through informed practice supporting people living with the long-term impacts of complex trauma to heal and recover,” Dr Kezelman said.

The report highlights a list of opportunities for improvement, including adequate education, investment in public health campaigns and an increase in trauma-informed support.

Through the publication and circulation of this Report, Blue Knot and BEING – Mental Health Consumers are hopeful that it will raise awareness and understanding of complex trauma, and that its insights will be used to inform critical policy, practice and service changes to promote meaningful paths to recovery for those impacted.

Irene Gallagher, CEO of BEING – Mental Health Consumers, emphasises the importance of hearing from people who live with complex trauma.

“We cannot underestimate the impacts of complex trauma on an individual’s life. We hope that through the bravery of people who so generously shared their stories to inform the Spotlight Report, that awareness will be raised and clinical services, and policy and decision makers will hear loud and clear the needs of people who live through complex trauma. Only then will we have system and service reform, and an opportunity for individual and collective healing to commence”. Ms Gallagher said.

The report can be accessed here.