Hello! My name is Eleanor and I’m 30 years old. I live on my boat in Brighton, UK and travel around in my van. I launched Eyes On Trauma in 2019 to raise awareness of complex psychological trauma and to campaign for trauma-informed care & practice.
It took me almost three decades to discover that the complex childhood trauma I experienced explained my lifelong struggle with severe mental health difficulties. Through my own research, I realised that despite seeking help from many professionals across my lifetime, nobody had ever acknowledged, diagnosed or helped me to heal from my complex trauma. The additional harm that this caused me is tremendous.
For the first time in my life, I realised I am not alone – sadly, I discovered many others with similar stories. And a common theme began to emerge: the experiences we had after our traumas, at the hands of family, friends and professionals when we were desperately asking for help, were just as bad as the original abuse. Society is not trauma-informed, so friends & family lack skills to support their loved ones. Healthcare services are not trauma-informed, so seeking help can cause further harm to those who need it the most.
It’s now 2021, we’ve just made the fastest vaccine in history to combat a global pandemic and Elon Musk is planning to go to Mars. But we’re treating people with lived experience of trauma & abuse as if it were still the Victorian days. It’s the last taboo that is overdue change. And that change is starting to happen: service users and health care professionals alike are beginning to recognise the need for trauma-informed models. But progress is shamefully slow. With the added pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic on global mental health, this is even more important and relevant today.
Eyes On Trauma
So, this is where I want to help. I am absolutely determined to make sure nobody experiences this in the future, and to help all those currently struggling with complex trauma. This wasn’t the thing I thought I was searching for, but now I’ve found it, I am absolutely passionate about spending the rest of my life working on this.
I set up Eyes On Trauma with a simple mission: to revolutionise the way people with lived experience of trauma are treated. I do this by making & sharing free trauma-informed resources, working with organisations as a lived experience advisor & researcher, and growing my academic career.
I have always loved reading, writing and science. Inspired by the academic papers I read during my own trauma healing journey, I’ve put together my own PhD proposal using innovative digital research methods to explore lived experience of complex trauma. I’ve gained the support of two supervisors at King’s College London, Institute of Psychiatry Psychology and Neuroscience, and am currently seeking funding to make this happen.
In the meantime I’m studying a Community Psychology MA, focusing on critical psychology and lived experience research.
As part of my role at the Lived Experience Advisory Group at the Violence, Abuse and Mental Health Network, I also take part in academic opportunities such as writing invited journal article commentaries.
You can read more about my academic interests here, including any papers I publish.
Whilst I can see the role of academia, I also highly value creative and innovative approaches. I have an entrepreneurial background, previously working within youth insight, social media research & digital strategy, involved with a number of community focused digital start-ups. I want to bring some of this entrepreneurialism to mental health, a field which is currently lacking but desperately needs fresh input.
I’m inspired to innovate within digital mental health research, bringing my previous social media research skills into mental health research. Given our awful experiences accessing help through mainstream mental health services, people with lived experience of complex trauma often go online to fill in the giant holes these services leave. This creates a new opportunity within mental health, both to learn from the experiences people are already sharing online, and to create accessible & effective digital interventions which can be scaled beyond current mental health services models. With mental health services already woefully inadequate and often failing those with the most severe traumas, and COVID-19 already adding immense demands on these services, it’s exactly the time to open our eyes and innovate.
Lived experience research
I’ve always been looking for ways to innovate and convey meanings across social worlds. As a 15-year-old, I wrote and found a publisher for my first book – How Teenagers Think (White Ladder Press, 2007), interviewing teens around key topics to give parents an insight from the teens’ perspective. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this was my first foray into lived experience research.
Lived experience is very important to me, and increasingly valuable within mental health research. I am a member of the Lived Experience Advisory Group at the VAMHN, and am keen to continue to work with a range of organisations offering a lived experience perspective on topics related to mental health. As an early academic researcher I am also passionate about using and advocating for lived experience and co-production research methodology to be increasingly used in mental health research.
Using my own lived experience and innovating in a different way, I’ve also created two sets of emotional flashback cards which I offer as a free download, and will have printed sets available to buy.
They are inspired by Pete Walker’s ’13 Steps to manage an emotional flashback’ within his book ‘Complex PTSD: From surviving to thriving’. It was the first time I’d heard of emotional flashbacks, and it changed my life, explaining many of the things I struggled with the most. Again, I realised that none of the professionals – many of whom had witnessed my emotional flashbacks – had ever recognised or helped me with these experiences.
I was motivated to take Pete’s words and create a set of flashcards to use myself. Enjoying the creative process, I developed them further and shared them with friends. Their responses were unanimous: they are fantastic, and would have changed their lives had they been given a set at 10 years old. I am keen to share them as widely as possible, and develop further sets with different aspects of complex trauma and for specific audiences.
Finally, I’m also a big advocate of peer support models to support people with lived experience of mental health problems. Participating in peer support groups has been one of the best things I have ever found for my own mental health, and I know others feel the same. I took part in two peer support training courses in 2020, qualifying as a peer support worker.
Peer support models are particularly effective for people with lived experience of complex trauma, as they avoid the usual power dynamics, pathologising approach and systemic constraints of traditional mental health interventions. Research is beginning to highlight this evidence, and peer support models offer other benefits including low costs and scalability.
I’m excited to continue to participate in, research and design peer support models. My current MA course includes a placement with a local charity, researching domestic violence peer support models.
So, that’s a little bit about me (Eleanor) and the inspiration & aims for Eyes On Trauma. If any of this has clicked with you, please get in touch – it’s great to connect around these topics and help make the change we all desire.
How Eyes On Trauma can help you:
Do you have lived experience of complex trauma?
Do you work with people who have lived experience of complex trauma?
All of our resources are accessible on this website. You can download a free set of emotional flashback cards to use with others. We can also offer lived experience talks, workshops and consultancy to your group or organisation.
Do you support someone with lived experience of complex trauma?
All of our resources are accessible on this website. You can download a free set of emotional flashback cards to use with your friend or family member. There may also be opportunities to take part in lived experience research.
Are you an academic interested in complex trauma?
I am currently seeking funding for a PhD exploring lived experiences of complex trauma, and am keen to work collaboratively with anyone interested in this field.
Are you working on digital mental health interventions?
I’m keen to use my entrepreneurial background to help bring much-needed digital innovation to the field of mental health; please contact me for collaborations.
Do you have an experience to share or a question to ask?
Please get in touch – it means a lot to hear from you, and our cause is only ever going to be as strong as our community.