Charity helping victims of childhood trauma move on

A Dorset charity is helping victims of childhood trauma recover and begin rebuilding their lives.

The Ferndown-based Bus Stop Club charity, funded by organisations including the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner for Dorset, provides help through its SOS course, providing weekly group sessions and outings for members between January and July each year.

Project Manager Susan Sutherland organises and runs two separate courses - one for men and one for women - each year, teaching the skills needed to cope with the effects of trauma and giving individual support.

She said: “It’s changing people’s lives because this course gives them long enough to process trauma from the past and give them the ability to move on.”

People who have been on the course have said they have experienced better mental wellbeing, improved self-esteem and are able to address issues such as addiction and dysfunctional relationships.

One former client wrote: “Transformational, I now have better boundaries, am better at self care and dealing with conflict. SOS enable you to get rid of the pain of the past, I feel safe and don’t feel shame or guilt anymore about what happened to me as a child.”

The course involves weekly meetings as well as activities including going out to daily retreats and group lunches, while Susan – a mental health first aid trainer – provides ongoing mentoring and support for the duration of the programme.

Many of the clients refer themselves to the service, and are also involved in other activities organised by the Bus Stop Club which supports east Dorset residents coping with challenges such as serious debt, food poverty, domestic violence and family crisis, which Susan says can often be linked with the lifelong effects of unprocessed childhood trauma.

She says: “You’re just not able to process experiences such as abuse and neglect when still a child. 

“We do a lot of work around self-care, we look at helpful and unhelpful ways of coping, developing good boundaries, ways of dealing with stress and looking after your mental health.

“We talk a lot about boundaries, letting people into our lives who are safe, and knowing how to assess the risk.

“Often people are able to build better, more functional relationships after finishing the course. However, sometimes they end up leaving their partners because they have realised the relationship is unhealthy and dysfunctional, which has resulted in further trauma and mental ill-health.”

Martyn Underhill, Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, said: “The effects of childhood trauma can last a lifetime, making people become victims for a second time by becoming trapped in domestic abuse situations.

“Supporting vulnerable people and improving mental health are two of my main priorities and this project does an excellent job of helping people cope and move on.”

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