Trauma work is part of resistance

Activist-Trauma Support was started in 2005 in order to provide support
especially during and after the G8 in Scotland. Previous experiences have
shown that while self-organised medical support for victims of police violence
was quite well organised, there was a serious lack of assistance on a
psychological level.

Working during the G8

For some, the idea for ATS was born from
experiences from the Aubonne Bridge Action
against the G8 in Evian 2003
(www.aubonnebridge.net). In Aubonne one
person was seriously physically injured – and
got lots of support. However several others
suffered from various degrees of psychological
trauma but did not get the support they
needed or deserved. This was when we
realized the pressing need for organised
awareness raising, information and support.
In preparation for Gleneagles a 6-day training
was organised with a professional trainer from
a charity focused on trauma care called ASSIST
(www.traumatic-stress.freeserve.co.uk .

of these participants, plus some new people
afterwards, formed the Activist Trauma
Support for the G8 in Scotland. As far as we
know it was the first time active trauma
support has been taken on board for a big
mobilisation. It was new ground to step on
since no experience could be called upon from
previous times and we spent a lot of time in
advance trying to figure out what would be
needed and useful.

In the end the group which was offering
emotional first aid was split between the
campsite in Stirling, where a big recovery dome
was set up, and Edinburgh in the Forest Café,
on the ground floor of the Indymedia Centre,
where the missing persons helpline and
prisoner/friends support were also organised
from. Both groups ran a 24hr phone helpline.
The recovery dome saw a steady flow of
people coming to find somebody to talk about
what they where going through, to get a
massage (which also often ended up fulfilling
the same purpose), to find a quiet place to cry,
to retreat or to just calm down with a cup of
tea and a blanket. Some people came once,
some several times.
It seemed that our presence in itself was
known by quite a lot of the people there and it
gave them some level of comfort even if they
did not use the facilities – rather like the
assurance when you know there is a medical
first aid tent. Situated in a quiet corner of the
eco-village, the recovery dome made up part of
a healing area that contributed a bit of space
and calm on the edge of some very frenetic

At the office in Edinburgh, phone support and
personal support took place, but turned out to
be much less needed than at the campsite. So
we started focussing on avoidance of trauma -
doing prisoner support (sending cards, money,
organising visits) and helping their friends out
(making phones available to call families,
lawyers, police stations, embassies…). This was
not originally intended to be part of our work
but turned out to be very useful. We also think
it proved effective in blurring the distinction
between “trauma support” (which sounds quite
dramatic and off-putting), prisoner support
and “general welfare”. We want to normalise
and destigmatise trauma, but we recognise
there is a long way to go.
We also realised that the first thing people
need after distressing experiences is to see
their friends, and a lot of the times in such
situations it can be hard to find them, which
can be very upsetting in itself. That is why we
had also set up a missing persons helpline,
which was run in close connection to the legal
team. This also served to deblock their
phoneline from people calling to find out
about their mates.
Furthermore we organised a secret “safe
space” some miles away from any action for
people who really needed to get out of the
area. It fortunately proved not to be necessary
this time (at least we hope this is true).
In terms of education we had set up
www.activist-trauma.net, printed and
distributed flyers about what we offered and
what to do after instances of brutality, as well
as a 6-page briefing about PTS”D”. Fliers also
gave information and advice to friends and
family of people in distress, on ways to offer
support, and help prevent PTS”D” from
developing. We also did a few workshops, but
should have done more and advertised them

The long-term support on phone, email and in
person after the G8 was less than expected,
(not sure if it was not needed or if people felt
reluctant to use it or if we did not do sufficient
outreach), but the hits on our webpage after
the G8 were really high. We have started
setting up a public contact base for support,
accessible through the webpage, where people
who need help can find people who offer to
help in different ways.