A consumers’ experience of trauma-informed care in acute mental health units in Australia: phenomenological investigation

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Wilson, A, Hutchinson, M & Hurley, J 2017, 'A consumers’ experience of trauma-informed care in acute mental health units in Australia: phenomenological investigation', Proceedings of the 18th International Mental Health Conference, Gold Coast, QLD, 21-23 August, 2017, jAustralian and New Zealand Mental Health Association, Nerang, QLD, pp. 77-105. ISBN 9781922232571

Peer Reviewed



Aim: The aim of this study is to explore the lived experience of trauma informed care in acute mental health units as experienced by consumers of the service. Background: Consumers of mental health services have the highest rates of exposure to social trauma, interpersonal trauma and trauma-related mental health disorders. Equally, they experience high rates of stigmatisation, marginalisation and re-traumatisation when receiving care in mental health units. Trauma-informed care understands that consumers of mental health services have the highest prevalence of trauma and as such recognises that mental health nurses are in a powerful position to identify and respond to trauma. Trauma-informed care supports the foundations of a healthy organisational culture to provide recoveryorientated and consumer-driven mental health care. Design: The study is a qualitative phenomenological investigation of five consumers in acute mental health care. The study utilised van Manens approach to phenomenological enquiry. Results: The study found four overarching themes: ‘Not being heard’, ‘Biomedical model Vs holistic mental wellness’, ‘Power and control within the biomedical model’ and ‘Retraumatising environment’. Conclusion: The findings have demonstrated that mental health services may further retraumatise and victimise consumers of mental health services. The study demonstrated that consumers experienced not being heard and as though they were being silenced in acute mental health settings. The current biomedical model in mental health appears to act as a barrier to genuine engagement with consumers. The study has highlighted the urgent need for mental health units to become trauma-aware, trauma sensitive, trauma-responsive and trauma- informed. Relevance to Clinical Practice: Acute mental health units can traumatise or re-traumatise consumers. Trauma-informed care is a well-suited strength-based recovery orientated approach to mental health care.