One very important tip is connected to the use of the word “trauma” in the field. Various experts counsel caution with the usage of this word. The problem is, when you begin to use the word trauma, you have started putting people in psychiatric and medical categories. This could mean that you will be adding insult to injury by labelling them in this fashion. This is particularly true in cultures that differ from the western ones. People who have psychological problems are already vulnerable and labelling them as traumatised may actually impede their healing process. In short: exercise caution when using the word trauma in the field.
The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies publication entitled “Psychological Support: Community-based Psychological Support Training Manual” (2002) also urges prudence when using the term “trauma”. ‘Words can have a powerful effect on situations. The terminology used to describe people needs to be carefully chosen. For example, describing large numbers of the population as traumatized, meaning that they are helpless and will not recover on their own, is inaccurate and counterproductive to healing. Not only could it encourage the development of a passive victim identity, but it also tends to deflect attention from the broader social environment. To be distressed, troubled, angry or preoccupied with a destructive event does not necessarily justify the trauma label in itself. The word trauma has a powerful, emotional appeal, but it is a clinical term that calls for specific clinical responses which are impossible to provide on a mass scale and which may have little relevance to the local concepts of suffering and misfortune. When the trauma discourse is largely based on generalizations and assumptions it not only loses sense, but more importantly it may well have the unintended, but devastating effect of giving people a frame of reference which keeps them vulnerable. Wording such as “active survivor” is far more likely to enhance empowerment and to help people feel more able to help themselves.’
Trauma is a western concept that cannot be literally translated everywhere
Another important fact is also culture-connected. It is the notion that the perception people have of things in places where you work often differs quite considerably from ideas held in the West. This is also – and maybe even especially – true of the perception of trauma. Trauma is a western concept that cannot be used in other parts of the world, including developing countries. The perception of events that westerners may describe as traumatic may well be interpreted differently in developing countries. You should take this into account.
Research has been done in post-conflict areas and they all point at percentages of anything between 30 and 99 per cent of children living there who have been through anything between two and twelve things, which would completely blow away each and every western child. You also find in those studies that the range of children who suffer depressions or have post traumatic stress reactions varies from 15 to 95 per cent. (professor De Jong, Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation).
Attitude of the sport development worker
The attitude you display in the field can have a great effect on the work you do and the relationships you develop with the sportspeople you work with. Various trauma experts and experienced sport development workers have given us tips concerning this issue, which we present to you below.