Activist Trauma Support 2004 - 2014
Hello, and thank you for visiting the Activist Trauma Support Website. As of 2014 we no longer operate as a group, however this site will keep functioning as an archived resource. All information is valid at the time of writing, but please note that the website is no longer being updated.
If you or someone you know is experiencing acute distress at the moment, this site may not be the best resource for you: please do seek support, such as from a mental health professional or services, the availability of which will vary depending on where you live and what the context is.
Activist Trauma Support formed in 2004 in the UK, due to a recognition of the potential for people involved in political activism to have distressing or traumatic experiences. Over the following decade, ATS ran Wellbeing Spaces at a number of large convergences like G8 and Climate Camps, facilitated workshops at many gatherings, supported individuals by telephone as well as face-to-face, produced the literature available on this site and collaborated with groups doing similar work in other countries. The initial focus on post-traumatic stress widened to include burnout when this too was observed to be a problem in activist groups and grassroots campaigns.
We have decided to wind up ATS as we found that we were no longer meeting our aims as a group. This website has been archived so that it can continue to be used by people experiencing and/or witnessing any degree of post-traumatic stress and burnout in an activist context, or anyone who may be concerned about someone else and seeking ways to understand and support them. We also hope that these resources will continue to help people to think about self-care, so as to be better prepared and prevent difficulties from escalating.
On this site you will find writing on the intersection of trauma and politics, personal accounts, and information sheets in English and a few other languages, which can be downloaded, printed and distributed in any number. These leaflets have turned up at many venues and events around the UK and abroad, and we hope that keeps happening!
Thinking of starting a group? For those thinking of organising to provide information, preventative action and support to people exposed to trauma and burnout through political activism, we have made our ATS internal guidelines and entry questionnaire available as part of our archive. That's not to say ours was the only or the best way of doing this work, but since we went through a lot of trial and error and discussion to develop these guidelines, we would like to share them with others involved in the same struggle.
Over the years we have witnessed a definite change in the way that trauma and burnout are approached in activist communities: while this work is never done, and we have been far from alone in addressing these issues (see the links page), we are happy to see many more activists taking practical steps to prevent trauma and burnout and look after themselves and one another, with more groups and campaigns building mental health awareness into their work.
Thanks for visiting our website, and take care of yourselves and each other!
Police Infiltrators – the ultimate betrayal
The news that people we knew, trusted, worked with and loved are not who we thought they were, has come as a shock to many people. For some, it has meant that close and intimate relationships were not what they seemed, representing a massive personal betrayal. Others may not have known the police infiltrators so closely, or even at all, but the news can still have a big impact on us, as individuals, groups and movements.
This information aims to recognise the range of impacts that the discovery of police infiltrators may have on us personally. Of course people had different relationships with the police spies. On top of this we are all unique in our personalities, backgrounds and personal situations. This means that the news will affect us all differently.
Activist Trauma Support doesn’t claim to have any easy answers about how to respond, but with this information we aim to acknowledge the ways in which we might feel, while offering recognition, validation and support to those affected.
We would also welcome any feedback as to how we could better provide support on this issue. Download leaflet
No Borders: thoughts on guilt, shame & trauma
Recent events in "the Jungle" in Calais probably give a fair indication of what the future may well look like for increasing numbers of people - both for migrants themselves, and for the activists trying to support them.
We've talked to various people involved in this work and have written a leaflet that aims to look at the possible psychological impacts of such activism while also looking at coping strategies and other tips to avoid burnout. Download leaflet.
This site is primarily for political activists who may be injured during or by their political activities and or struggling with other mental health issues related to activism. Hopefully much of the information is useful to other groups and individuals who either have to face violence or repression where ever it may come from. It seems that as a movement we have not sufficiently acknowledged the psychological effects of the brutality and stress that an increasing number of us are subjected too.
Supporting people who have been traumatized should be a central part of our activism, for without support and solidarity we can be easily picked off. This is not exciting or glamorous, it's hard work. However it can be rewarding, interesting and have very positive results. We may sometimes feel powerless in the face of all their power but we CAN help each other.
We are a bunch of anti-capitalist activists who have either experienced or been close to people who have been effected by PTSD or other forms of mental health issues. We are NOT experts about these issues (and if you are we would like to hear from you) but care deeply and want to help. Just by raising these issues we are helping to cure them.
Climate Camp in Edinburgh – 21st to 24th August 2010
Calling Out submissions for a trauma reader: "SCARSONGS - An Anthology Articulating the Terrain of Trauma and Resilience" - see below.
New leaflet for download: "No Borders: Thoughts on guilt, shame & trauma" - see the Downloads page.
Trauma support and Emotional first aid during COP15
We are still here to support people after COP15! Quite often there is quite a come down from these big actions. If you are feeling as if the police violence or general stress has effected you then why don't you contact us or read some more on our website?
or call (0045) 52768566
During the Climate Summit 2009 in Copenhagen there were spaces set up for trauma support and emotional first aid.
The group working to set up these structures in Copenhagen was new, but we were working together with people from both Activist Trauma Support and Out Of Action to get knowledge and share experiences. Together we tried to provide the resources for activists better to be able to deal with the emotional stress of a summit.
Trauma support spaces were set up in central locations, and the spaces were coordinated with other relevant groups, such as medics, legal teams and info points.
Again, more information on the COP15 First Aid website.
Some people from ATS in collaboration with two other projects have started working on a publishing a trauma reader:
SCARSONGS - An Anthology Articulating the Terrain of Trauma and Resilience
We invite your submissions! Deadline is May 1st, 2010.
More info at www.scarsongs.net
Read more (leaflet to download)
Spread the word! Here is the flyer: