Smacking a child can be quite traumatic and can have a bearing on the rest of that child’s life, yet most families normalise this

By Mertha Mo Nyamande

Trauma is one of the core issues in all mental health issues; be it physical trauma where blood, guts are spilled and tissues bones are damaged, or psychological where our beliefs are shaken, questioned or threatened. The complexity is when the organ that is both physical and mental is damaged, thereby affecting the cognitive processes.

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) is the most common injury found in Road Traffic Collisions, Abused Children, Domestic Violence or Gender-Based Violence and other violent incidents where trauma to the head, in particular, is sustained.

We may not necessarily see the injury to the brain, but the injury to the skull or a concussion is a strong indicator to trigger further neurological assessments. The scar to the organ is never really seen until or unless post-mortem or autopsies are performed after death.

This is how we have learnt of Dementias, particularly the Alzheimer’s type, and the aneurysms, seizures and strokes that cause other types of invisible brain injuries. All these are brain traumas.



Trauma is not always understood and as such can be normalised, for example, violence is traumatic, whether there is blood or not. Smacking a child can be quite traumatic and can have a bearing on the rest of that child’s life, yet most families normalise this.

That leaves the recipient with the guilt that they have done something wrong and therefore deserved whatever punishment.

Most people who present with trauma, their most common features are guilt, shame, and some over-inflated sense of responsibility.

Our relationships can be the biggest source of trauma where our held beliefs are threatened, causing disharmony in the home, and changes of personalities.

Trauma as an event is quite prevalent, from the core of our very being; the excruciating pain of childbirth is also linked and associated and known to be a major contributing factor in post-natal and postpartum depressions.



While mothers may experience pain and trauma of childbirth; losing all that blood and fear as many others have died during this process, babies also experience near-death-experience due to suffocation on their journey through the birth canal, and yet again a cause of a lot of infant deaths.

Imagine the burden of how a child will feel knowing that it was their birth that caused their mother to die, or a mother who delivers a still birth.

They may think that only if they had done such or avoided such, this could have been avoided. All these shared conscious and unconscious processes are also linked to anxieties in children and much later into adulthood. So all these issues are where trauma really starts for most of us.

The further traumas that we then endure later on in life ie rape, terrorism, or other moral violations will only become validations of the original guilt and shame that the individual already holds. 37% of military personnel experience PTSD, approximately 4 out of every 10, suggesting that 6 out of 10 are not affected by the same event.

In the cognitive behaviour (CBT), the credence is that “it is never the event that causes any difficulties, but the thoughts and beliefs that we hold about the event”.

So those that end up developing the likes of PTSD or Adjustment Disorders would have had problematic thinking that they brought to the event.

The event only validates and triggers them back to their flawed beliefs.



Covid-19 has also come along, adding to a whole list of other traumas from HIV/AIDS, wars, Tsunamis, famine, violent oppressions, with an added and inflated sense of uncertainty and more fear, causing trauma from witnessing loved ones expire without being able to care for them as we would have ordinarily, further complicating an already complex situation with the concept of Complex Grief.

There are many other clouding complications and conspiracies around this pandemic, drastically changing everything that has been normal for humankind that has never been good with change.

Symptoms that suggest that there is trauma are: sudden change of personality of the individual, often reported by those that know them; Avoidance of situations, people or places that they used to enjoy; Poor sleep that is associated with trying to avoid nightmares with a remarkably close link to the traumatic event; hypervigilance or hypersensitivity to any slight unexpected moves.

In trauma triage assessments, the PTSD Checklists (PCL-Civilian or the PCL-Military or the latest PCL-5), particularly focus more on severity on the 3 main areas of assessment: Re-experiencing, avoidance or numbing and hyperarousal, these are also common symptoms in most anxiety and panic disorders, as such are most traumas classified.

Treatment for trauma is not as daunting as often believed of most mental illnesses, it involves medications to alleviate the heightened responses and help the individual to relax, but most importantly, psychotherapy or talking about trauma with experts is very different to talking to family or friends, it does not take the problem away, but it helps to safely make sense of the experience and allows to process the learning and file it away as a resource than keep it as a source of pain.


If we do not resolve or repair any issues that are broken and damaged with/in us, we are only passing that burden on to those that come after us to deal with.

As we are all affected by trauma which contributes to our mental health issues and disorders; is it best to normalise our pain and anxieties or can we better understand the psychopathology and what we can do to address these issues?

This fight is not only for the others, but for all of us, for it will be the child of that traumatised man that your daughter falls in love with. Reach out, effective help is available.

By Psychotherapist Mertha Mo Nyamande @




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