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Risk Factors Linked to Trauma and Mental and Behavioral Health

Trauma is a difficult and heart-wrenching experience that can impact anyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, or background. It can come in many forms, from natural disasters to physical abuse or even the loss of a loved one. The impact of trauma can cause a ripple effect on personal, familial, and communal levels. The effects may vary from individual to individual, but they can lead to severe and long-lasting harm to an individual’s mental and emotional well-being.

Traumatic events have the potential to occur unexpectedly, affecting individuals from all walks of life, regardless of location or timing. In the United States alone, estimates suggest that about 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women will experience at least one traumatic event in their lives. Many individuals may recover from the experience with some degree of resilience. Others may display symptoms linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, or other mental and behavioral health disorders.

Risk Factors Associated with Mental and Behavioral Health

A significant risk factor associated with mental and behavioral health is experiencing traumatic events. After experiencing significant trauma, individuals may show symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, or other mental and behavioral health disorders.

Other risk factors that can compound the impact of traumatic events include experiences of early childhood adversity, living in poverty, a lack of social support, and genetic predispositions to mental and behavioral health disorders. Furthermore, children and young adults who have suffered trauma may be more vulnerable to drug or substance use disorders.

We also want to acknowledge Vicarious trauma, also known as secondary traumatic stress, which contributes significantly to mental and behavioral health issues. It occurs when an individual is indirectly exposed to a traumatic event through a firsthand account or narrative. This often happens among professionals in fields like healthcare, emergency services, and mental health support, where exposure to others’ traumatic experiences is common.

Risk factors for vicarious trauma are similar to primary trauma. Continuous exposure to distressing stories, pre-existing mental health conditions, and lack of support systems are significant factors. Empathetic individuals or those with a history of trauma may be more susceptible. Vicarious trauma can lead to symptoms similar to PTSD, affecting an individual’s personal and professional life. It is crucial to acknowledge the silent and indirect impact of vicarious trauma and emphasize strategies like professional support, self-care, and resilience-building.

Helpful Ways to Support Individuals After Trauma

When someone experiences trauma, it’s natural to want to help. Here are a few ways to support someone who has suffered through a traumatic event:

Listening: Sometimes, all someone needs is someone to listen to them and validate their experiences.

Groups and Communities: Look for resources in your community to help individuals who have experienced trauma, such as support groups, counseling services, or other peer-led or professional-led groups.

Professional help: Treatment from licensed clinicians is a great way for individuals to work through their experience of trauma, monitor their progress, and learn coping mechanisms.

Education: Take the time to learn about the impact of trauma, risk factors, and helpful tools to support individuals experiencing them.

Trauma is a complex experience that affects millions of people worldwide. It is crucial to provide support and a safe space for individuals who have experienced or are currently experiencing trauma. By educating ourselves and our communities about the effects of trauma and mental and behavioral health, we move toward helping individuals live healthier and fulfilling lives. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help or seek assistance for the trauma experienced, and taking that step shows strength and courage.


Promoting mental health awareness can be achieved through programs like Gateway to Hope’s Empower training. This standout offering enhances community understanding of mental health, equipping individuals with tools to identify and respond to challenges.

The Hope and Healing Center & Institute also offers a warm line operated by The Hope Line team, and if relief is just a talk away you can call from 5-8 PM for a free 30-minute peer-counseling session with a Hope line operator (832-832-7337). For those who require immediate assistance, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) and the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741) are available 24/7. Both are free, and confidential and provide immediate support for people in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.