What is a Traumatic Event?

Traumatic events can happen anytime, anywhere to anyone.   Often traumatic events are defined as events that are sudden, unexpected and perceived as traumatic by those affected.  Events that have brought actual or potential physical harm or death to an individual such as an accident, assault, suicide, disaster, or threat can be distressing and traumatic.  Losses may be distressing or traumatic as well.   A person does not have to experience or witness a traumatic event directly in order to be traumatized.    This guide provides information on how to help people after a traumatic event while recognizing their capabilities and resilience.

Within a caring learning environment we may from time to time experience incidents not strictly considered “traumatic” but that still prompts a TERT response in order to meet the healing needs of members of our community.

Potential Effects of a Traumatic Event:

The range of effects of traumatic events varies as widely as the people who experience the event.   Traumatic events can have extremely strong impacts on individuals and their ability to function either at the time of the event or afterwards.   At varying time periods, individuals may experience strong emotional, behavioural, cognitive or physical reactions.   These reactions can follow directly from a traumatic event or may occur after a period of time has elapsed.   It is important to note that some people may not be traumatized by an event and that it is impossible to gauge who will be affected based on their involvement with the event.


The role of the college Traumatic Event Response Team is to:

  • Provide an organized, systematic, but flexible response to a traumatic event
  • Provide communication to the campus community about a traumatic event.
  • Provide consolation in a safe and supportive environment.

Experience has shown that when a tragedy strikes a close-knit community such as a college, the effects may be profound.   Research has shown that allowing individuals affected by traumatic events to process their thoughts and feelings in a safe and caring environment, can prevent or negate any long term negative effects of the trauma.