Trauma is all around us here in East Africa. We may suffer one ourselves or be called upon to assist others caught up in one. So it pays to be prepared.

Traumata are events that overwhelm a person’s ability to cope. Traumatic events can be sudden and unexpected such as an accident, an earthquake or a robbery or a longer state of danger such as war or civil strife. They can be man made or natural. How a traumatic event influences a person depends on many variables. The life history of the person, where a serious of traumata may eventually lead to not coping well, though each individual one seemed manageable at the time; the day-form, in other words how the day has gone before the trauma hits; the support system– are there family friends around to support or not or are they themselves victims of the same trauma; the nature of the trauma itself, for example rape has a higher incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder than robbery and the severity of the trauma.

All this shows that it is hard to predict how somebody exposed to a traumatic situation will respond. Normal immediate responses fall into the 3 F categories: Fight, Flight and Freeze. Fight- taking on the challenge, eg. Finding a way out of a damaged vehicle, flight- eg running away from the robbers; if neither of those two are options: freeze- playing dead, this is a state of high tension, but no movement. All of these immediate responses are found later as symptoms of posttraumatic stress. These fall into the categories of special alert (looking for danger and being ready to fight), avoidance (of reminders of the trauma called intrusions or flash backs) as in flight and numbing of feelings (freeze). Within the first few weeks after a traumatic event all of these are quite normal responses. If they persist after about 2 months or get increasingly worse or interfere with the ability to function in daily life, it is time to look for professional help.

Signs and symptoms of posttraumatic stress include the areas of physical reactions such as aches and pains, sleep difficulties, vulnerability for infection, mental reactions such as inability to concentrate or difficulties with decision making, emotional reactions such as depression, anger or fears, relational such as withdrawal, inability to get along and spiritual reactions such as a changed relationship with God, search for meaning, hopelessness and disinterest in spiritual activities.

AIM Care at Tumaini Counselling Centre offers debriefing after traumatic events, assessment for post traumatic stress and treatment for it. There are effective trauma treatments available, such as EMDR and others, which the counselors at Tumaini have been trained in. Reach us by phone at +254-728-606911 or +254-733-687050 (note neither receives SMS) or by e-mail at