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Living with Complex Trauma

This Spotlight Report was commissioned by the National Mental Health Commission in recognition that there is a significant need to build awareness and understanding of the often chronic and largely unmet needs of people living with the long-term impacts of complex trauma.

This report reviews the current research and practice into complex trauma and experiences of people with a lived experience of complex trauma – how they have engaged with the system and how the systems have responded to their needs. It highlights the chasm between needs and the system’s capacity to meet them, to support healing and recovery, minimise experiences of re-traumatisation and to be heard, respected and supported to live meaningful participating connected lives.

The public health issue of complex trauma has long been ignored. It is time for the knowledge from lived experience, practice and research to inform services and practice in order to reduce the mental distress and sense of hopelessness and helplessness so many people diagnosed with mental illness, with unrecognised complex trauma can experience. We hope that this report will provide the impetus and insight which drives the investment, training and systems change needed for every person who has been abused, violated, neglected or exploited during their lives to find a sense of safety, hope, healing and wellbeing.


Spotlight Report - Living with Complex Trauma - August 2021

PDF, 506.19 KB
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Acknowledgement of Country

The Commission acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands throughout Australia.
We pay our respects to their clans, and to the elders, past present and emerging, and acknowledge their continuing connection to land, sea and community.


The Commission is committed to embracing diversity and eliminating all forms of discrimination in the provision of health services. The Commission welcomes all people irrespective of ethnicity, lifestyle choice, faith, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Lived Experience

We acknowledge the individual and collective contributions of those with a lived and living experience of mental ill-health and suicide, and those who love, have loved and care for them. Each person’s journey is unique and a valued contribution to Australia’s commitment to mental health suicide prevention systems reform.