Trauma types, symptoms, manifestations and social support systems among university students trauma survivors in Kenya
Wang'eri, T. W.
Tumuti, S. T.
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The intention of this study was to explore trauma types, symptoms manifestations and social support systems among undergraduate students in Kenya. Specifically, the study was done among the first and second year students taking Bachelor of Education (B.ED) Degree at Kenyatta University, a public university in Kenya. A total of 438 students were randomly selected and data generated using a paper based questionnaire. Out of the total sample, 45.16% had experienced traumatic events. Out of these, more males (26.50%) than females (18.66) reported that they had experienced traumatic events. The most significant traumatic experiences reported were witnessing violence, having a chronically sick family member and being in circumstances where they reported to have narrowly escaped death. The least significant traumatic events reported were bereavement, sexual abuse and being involved in accidents in which one was seriously injured. The findings revealed slight gender differences in the traumatic events reported as the females reported higher incidences of witnessing violence, while the males reported higher incidents in which they had been in circumstances where they escaped death narrowly . Further to this, more males than females reported witnessing family conflicts. Both males and females reported experiencing mood swings where they felt angry, sad, depressed and annoyed and also a sense of confusion that interfered with their ability to cope with daily challenges of life. Both males and females reported difficulties in concentrating (32.04%) while 24.76% displayed social withdrawal in which they specifically felt they did not want the company of others. In addition, they reported experiencing anger over minor issues (30.26%), followed by difficulties concentrating in important matters like lectures (23.68%). Some of the males and females reported experiencing body aches and pains (19.74%) as well as fatigue even after having a good night sleep. The symptoms reported by some students were: inability to sleep, nightmares, and being easily startled. The study findings revealed that the most significant coping strategies students employed Included attempting to solve the problem, trying to forget the problem existed, looking for someone to help and avoiding trauma triggers. The least reported coping methods were smoking cigarettes, taking psychoactive drugs, sexual promiscuity and drinking alcohol. However, insignificant gender differences revealed that more males than females reported drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, taking other psychoactive drugs and engaging in sexual promiscuity as methods of coping with traumatic events. The findings further revealed that majority of students preferred seeking help from their close friends and only insignificant percentages sought help from established University programmes such as psychological counseling and other social support systems. Gender differences revealed that fewer males than females reported sharing their traumatic experiences with friends. The study recommended that the university set up a system of screening students for symptoms of psychological trauma. The study further recommended that the students be sensitized about the importance of seeking institutional and professional help in times of trauma. Specifically, the male students should be trained and encouraged to seek social support in times of trauma. Further, the study recommended that students be sensitized about the risks of engaging in health compromising behavior as methods of coping with psychological trauma.