How to COPE with trauma
The 17th of October marks World Trauma Day – a day dedicated to acknowledging the impact of traumatic events, as well as creating awareness around its prevention and treatment. With one of the highest crime rates in the world, South Africans are no strangers to trauma. Stats reveal that on average 329 people are murdered each week, 53 houses are robbed daily, and six cases of rape are reported every hour.
“These high levels of violence and crime take a heavy toll on South Africans, affecting mental, emotional and physical health. Even a perceived threat remains a potent stressor, with direct physiological and behavioural consequences,’ says Dr Ali Hamdulay from Metropolitan’s health division.
Added to this is the financial impact trauma has on us. Dealing with physical and emotional trauma –such as hospitalisation or seeking psychiatric care – can place a massive strain on one’s resources. “When dealing with trauma, it helps if your financial situation is in good stead because the last thing you need is to worry about money as well,” says Cebisa Mfenyana from Metropolitan’s retail division.
Fortunately, there are tools that we can employ to effectively manage trauma and its emotional and financial toll on us. “COPE is a technique that can help us to deal with trauma and ensure that we are equipped to face any eventuality,” says Cebisa.
How to COPE:
• C is for ‘confide’: Acknowledge and speak about traumatic experiences: “Although painful to relive, expressing what has happened to you and how you are feeling – whether verbally, written or even through a creative outlet – can be very therapeutic,” says Dr Hamdulay. “It allows one to deal with, understand and work through their emotions.”
• O is for ‘own your health’: Excessive stress is a common side-effect of trauma, but it can be managed or minimised by our behaviour. “Try to eat healthy balanced meals, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep. While it won’t make what transpired disappear, it will help the problem not to be exacerbated, enabling us to better deal with the trauma. Avoid alcohol and any other stimulants – while they may help you feel better at the time, they will worsen the situation in the long run,” says Dr Hamdulay.
• P is for ‘prepare’: Many traumatic events result in physical harm and require hospitalisation and sometimes even out-of-hospital recovery specialists. It is important to understand what your medical aid covers. “Getting hospital cover can also help cover unexpected costs associated with being hospitalised, such as childcare while you recover from the trauma” says Cebisa.
• E is for ‘eventuality’: Be prepared for what comes after the traumatic event. Some traumatic events may result in disability or require a certain period of rest. “Disability cover ensures that you get a specified amount if you suffer a disability and you can no longer work. The disability cover pay out ensures that you and your family have a financial safety net so that you are able to help pay the bills,” says Cebisa. “If your work environment is at higher risk of exposure to trauma-inducing incidents, for example, mining or rescue workers, then this type of cover is very important. Speak to a financial adviser to help customise your disability cover to your unique needs, ensuring that it fits your pocket, too.”