Face masks can trigger trauma for victims

Blue Knot Foundation has released advice for trauma survivors on ways to cope with wearing a mask.
Blue Knot Foundation has released advice for trauma survivors on ways to cope with wearing a mask.

As face masks become increasingly de rigueur for millions of people living in Victoria and NSW, trauma experts are warning that face coverings can be triggering for some.

The Blue Knot Foundation says masks can trigger previous trauma experiences for survivors.

The foundation, which is a centre of excellence for complex trauma, has released advice for trauma survivors on ways to help cope with having to wear a mask or interact with people wearing masks.

With the introduction of mandatory masks in Victoria, and other states increasingly advocating for their use, the foundation says it's concerned for survivors of complex trauma.

"Many people with a history of trauma may be triggered when asked to wear a mask, or even when they see someone wearing a mask," Blue Knot Foundation president Cathy Kezelman said on Monday.

"For other survivors it may reignite feelings of not being able to breathe, such as in the recent bushfires. Survivors may have been assaulted by a person wearing a mask and for others, the feeling of being trapped and helpless is all too familiar.

"It can cause feelings of panic and of being suffocated. So too is the discomfort of not being able to see another person's face to help us read the non-verbal cues so we know what is happening," Dr Kezelman said.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has already advised it accepts trauma as a valid reason for people to not wear a mask.

The Blue Knot Foundation has developed a list of strategies trauma survivors can adopt if they are required to wear a mask or interact with someone wearing a mask.

It suggests limiting the amount of mask time and increase it gradually, decorate your mask, breathe slower and deeper, play soothing music, meditate, walk, take baths and stay connected to friends.

Australian Associated Press