Towards Creating Effective Strategies for Communicating with Victims of Trauma in Nigeria

Citation: Hassan, J.T., Ibrahim, Z.A., Abdulmumini, A. & Amos, V. (2024). Towards Creating Effective Strategies for Communicating with Victims of Trauma in Nigeria. Tasambo Journal of Language, Literature, and Culture, 3(1), 62-76. www.doi.org/10.36349/tjllc.2024.v03i01.008.

Towards Creating Effective Strategies for Communicating with Victims of Trauma in Nigeria

Joan Tirwyn Hassan
Department of Mass Communication, Kaduna State University  

Zainab Aliyu Ibrahim
Department of Mass Communication, Kaduna State University  

Abduljalil Abdulmumini
Department of Mass Communication, Kaduna State University  

Victor Amos
Department of Mass Communication, Kaduna State University  


The rising incidence of trauma cases in Nigeria poses a significant challenge to the well-being of individuals and communities, necessitating effective communication strategies for supporting victims. This exploratory study, grounded in Social Cognitive Theory, explores the multifaceted landscape of trauma communication within the Nigerian context. Utilizing a qualitative approach, the study relied on recent research and empirical studies to address key issues on the subject. The article focuses on the importance of understanding cultural nuances and tailoring communication strategies to diverse backgrounds. Building on three key research questions with a focus on methods of communicating with trauma victims, barriers to communicating with them and strategies tailored towards meeting the cultural needs of trauma victims, the study discusses the implications of its findings, highlighting potential avenues for further research. The conclusion underscores the importance of a multi-faceted and culturally sensitive approach to trauma communication in Nigeria. The recommendations provide actionable insights for stakeholders, including de-stigmatization campaigns, community-based mental health programmes, cultural competence training, and the integration of technology. These recommendations aim to guide policymakers, mental health professionals, the media and community leaders in developing effective and culturally informed communication strategies for trauma victims in Nigeria to manage the rising situation.

Keywords: Communication, Trauma, Barriers, Victims, Nigeria.


Nigeria, a nation known for its vibrant culture and resilient spirit, is grappling with a concerning surge in trauma cases that demands urgent attention and strategic intervention. Recent years have witnessed a notable escalation in various forms of trauma, ranging from conflict-induced distress to the aftermath of natural disasters, affecting individuals and communities across the country. This mounting crisis necessitates a nuanced understanding of the complexities surrounding trauma and, equally importantly, an exploration of effective communication strategies to engage with and support victims on their path to recovery.

In recent years, Nigeria has witnessed a surge in trauma cases, with violence, conflict, and natural disasters causing significant harm to individuals and communities. According to a report by the National Bureau of Statistics, in 2019, Nigeria recorded 19,364 violent deaths, an increase of 1,274 from the previous year (National Bureau of Statistics, 2020). Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has added to the already high levels of stress and trauma, with many individuals experiencing social isolation, financial hardship, and loss of loved ones. In light of these rising trauma cases, it is crucial to examine effective communication strategies for trauma victims, particularly in the Nigerian context.

Empirical evidence reveals a concerning upswing in trauma incidents across Nigeria, with studies noting a surge in mental health challenges, particularly related to post-traumatic stress, especially in regions marked by conflict and insecurity (Akinsulure, 2020; Olayinka, 2022). Additionally, the aftermath of natural disasters, such as floods and droughts, has left communities grappling with the psychological aftermath, adding a layer of complexity to the overall trauma landscape (Igwe et al., 2021).

In the face of this escalating crisis, effective communication emerges as a vital component in the holistic approach to trauma recovery. Communication is not only a tool for conveying information but a conduit for empathy, understanding, and support. As trauma victims navigate the intricate path towards healing, the information in which they are communicated can significantly impact their recovery journey (Ewelina, 2023).

The role of effective communication in trauma recovery cannot be overstated. It serves as a bridge between the victim's internal struggles and external support systems, fostering an environment where individuals feel heard, understood, and validated in their experiences. The literature underscores the connection between positive communication experiences and improved mental health outcomes for trauma survivors (Foa et al., 2021; Knaevelsrud & Maercker, 2018). As such, exploring communication strategies tailored to the unique cultural and contextual aspects of Nigeria is imperative for addressing the burgeoning trauma crisis.

This article seeks to delve into the heart of the rising trauma cases in Nigeria, exploring the various dimensions of trauma prevalent in the nation and shedding light on the intricate interplay between trauma and effective communication. Through an exploration of recent research findings and insights from experts, this study seeks to offer a comprehensive understanding of the challenges posed by trauma in Nigeria. Furthermore, it aims to propose practical strategies for effectively communicating with and supporting trauma victims on their journey to recovery.

Problem Statement

The increasing number of trauma cases in Nigeria presents a multifaceted challenge that goes beyond the immediate effects on individuals. Trauma has a profound impact on communities, puts a strain on healthcare systems, and poses a significant obstacle to the overall well-being of the nation. The confluence of armed conflicts, ethno-religious tensions, and environmental disasters has intensified the prevalence of trauma, creating a pressing need for targeted interventions (Adeyemi et al., 2020; Johnson et al., 2018).

As trauma cases continue to rise, existing support structures, both social and institutional, face considerable strain. The implications extend to mental health services, community cohesion, and the nation's overall socio-economic development. The challenge is not just the escalation of trauma incidents but the subsequent hurdles in effectively addressing and mitigating their repercussions (Smith et al., 2017; Adeyemi et al., 2020).

Moreover, the communication gap between trauma victims and support systems exacerbates the problem. Victims often face barriers in articulating their experiences, and existing communication approaches may fall short of providing the nuanced support required for their recovery (Johnson et al., 2018; Smith et al., 2017).

Addressing the rising trauma cases necessitates a comprehensive understanding of the unique dynamics at play. The problem extends beyond the immediate impact on individuals and communities to encompass broader implications for the nation's social cohesion and resilience. Effectively communicating with trauma victims becomes not only a matter of individual recovery but a crucial element in rebuilding the social fabric and fostering a resilient society in the face of ongoing challenges (Smith et al., 2017; Adeyemi et al., 2020).

Conceptual Clarification

The following concepts are clarified in the study: Understanding trauma, communication, effective communication, and communication barriers:

Understanding Trauma

Trauma encompasses the psychological and emotional response triggered when an individual undergoes or witnesses an exceptionally distressing event surpassing their coping capacity (Oshodi et al., 2013). This may involve incidents like accidents, violence, death, or war exposure (Adejumo & Daramola, 2019). The repercussions of trauma can be far-reaching, impacting diverse facets of an individual's mental and physical well-being. Psychologically, trauma may give rise to a spectrum of symptoms, including intrusive memories, flashbacks, nightmares, emotional distress, hypervigilance, and heightened arousal responses (Atilola et al., 2015). On an emotional level, trauma can evoke intense feelings such as fear, sadness, anger, shame, guilt, and helplessness. The physical aftermath of trauma varies, presenting as physical pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, headaches, and alterations in appetite or weight (Oshodi et al., 2013). Socially, trauma can disrupt an individual's capacity to trust, establish, and maintain relationships, potentially leading to social isolation, withdrawal, and challenges in forming intimate connections (Oshodi et al., 2013).Top of Form


Communication is the intricate process through which individuals share information, thoughts, sentiments, and convictions, utilizing diverse methods such as spoken, nonverbal, and written communication (Berger & Calabrese, 2016). It serves as a fundamental cornerstone in human interaction, playing a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of social, cultural, and personal development.

In the realm of verbal communication, spoken language becomes the conduit for imparting significance. This form of communication can adopt either a formal or informal tone, contingent upon the context and the nature of the relationship between communicators (Berger & Calabrese, 2016). Whether manifested in dialogues, orations, presentations, or interviews, verbal communication takes on various dynamic forms.

On a contrasting note, nonverbal communication navigates the realm of body language, facial expressions, gestures, and vocal intonations to convey meaning (Berger & Calabrese, 2016). Whether purposeful or inadvertent, nonverbal communication possesses the unique ability to express a diverse spectrum of emotions, attitudes, and intentions, adding depth to the overall communicative experience.

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Effective Communication

Clear, accurate, and efficient communication is the hallmark of effectiveness in conveying information to others. This proficiency extends beyond spoken words, encompassing both verbal and nonverbal aspects, and is indispensable in personal, professional, and social interactions. Its significance is pervasive, spanning various domains like business, education, healthcare, and relationships, where effective communication contributes to heightened productivity, informed decision-making, and stronger interpersonal connections.

According to the National Communication Association (NCA), effective communication is defined as "the process by which individuals exchange meanings through the use of verbal, nonverbal, and mediated signs and symbols" (NCA, 2021). This definition highlights the importance of both verbal and nonverbal communication in effective communication.

Communication barriers

Communication barriers refer to obstacles that hinder effective communication between individuals or groups. These barriers can arise from various sources, including linguistic, cultural, technological, physical, and psychological factors (Berger & Calabrese, 2016). Communication barriers can have significant negative impacts on personal, professional, and social interactions, leading to misunderstandings, conflicts, and reduced productivity.

Linguistic barriers arise from differences in language, dialect, or accent. For instance, a study by Junco and Cotten (2012) found that social media users often experience linguistic barriers due to the use of slang, acronyms, and abbreviations. This can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunications, particularly among individuals who are not familiar with the specific terminology.

Divergent values, beliefs, and norms contribute to the emergence of cultural barriers. For instance, Hofstede's (1980) cultural dimensions theory posits that those from collectivistic cultures, such as China and Japan, might lean towards indirect communication styles, introducing potential challenges when interacting with individuals from individualistic cultures.

Technological barriers, rooted in communication technologies like email, text messaging, or social media, pose another challenge. Kline and Vaughan's (2000) study highlights that email communication, devoid of nonverbal cues like facial expressions and body language, can lead to misunderstandings, illustrating the potential pitfalls of technology-mediated communication.

Physical barriers, stemming from limitations like hearing or vision impairments, speech impediments, or physical disabilities, present additional challenges. In environments with high noise levels, individuals with hearing impairments may encounter difficulties, and those with speech impediments may struggle to be understood by others.

Psychological barriers, arising from individual variations in communication styles, preferences, and attitudes, form yet another layer of complexity. Gudykunst and Ting-Toomey's (1988) study reveals that individuals with high communication apprehension, characterized by a fear of communication, may opt to avoid it altogether, contributing to potential misunderstandings and miscommunications.

Literature Review

Trauma, often arising from armed conflicts, ethno-religious tensions, and environmental disasters, has become a pervasive issue in Nigeria, demanding an exploration of effective communication strategies to support the growing number of victims. This literature review examines key themes, including the causes and types of trauma, the societal implications, communication barriers, and the role of effective communication in trauma recovery.

Trauma, characterized by emotional, psychological, and physical responses following exposure to highly stressful or harmful events, is a significant challenge for individuals in Nigeria. To implement effective support and intervention strategies, it is crucial to comprehend the causes and various types of trauma. This article examines the various causes and types of trauma prevalent in Nigeria, facilitating a deeper understanding of the mental health challenges faced by its residents.

First is the socio-political trauma, which Nigerians grapple with, stemming from the country's history of political instability, corruption, and ethno-religious conflicts (Ojikutu et al., 2018). Political violence, such as electoral violence, coup d'états, and human rights abuses, can result in long-lasting psychological distress (Clark et al., 2018). Furthermore, communal clashes, religious extremism, and acts of terrorism perpetrated by groups such as Boko Haram severely impact mental health (Atilola, 2017).

The second type of trauma common in Nigeria is gender-based violence: Nigeria grapples with a pervasive issue of gender-based violence, marked by occurrences such as rape, domestic violence, child marriage, and female genital mutilation, resulting in considerable trauma among its populace (Ezejimofor et al., 2020). Survivors often suffer from psychological distress, PTSD, depression, and anxiety (Izugbara et al., 2019). These traumatic experiences hinder economic and social development, exacerbating the mental health challenges in Nigeria.

A third type of trauma observed in Nigeria is refugee and displacement trauma. Internal displacement and refugee crises stemming from conflicts in the northeast region and the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency contribute to trauma in Nigeria (Mazimpaka et al., 2020). Displacement disrupts the lives of individuals, causing separation from families, exposure to violence, and insecurity (Muzorewa et al., 2019). Trauma resulting from displacement can have severe consequences on mental health, especially among vulnerable populations like children and women.

Another common cause of trauma in Nigeria is natural disasters: Nigeria is susceptible to natural disasters, including floods, droughts, and disease outbreaks (Oluwadare, 2016). These disasters cause significant physical and psychological trauma, leading to post-disaster mental health challenges (Ilesanmi et al., 2020). Loss of loved ones, destruction of homes, and disruptions to daily life contribute to the trauma experienced by affected communities.

Interpersonal violence is another cause of trauma in Nigeria, which encompasses armed robbery, kidnapping, communal clashes, and cultism (Obindo et al., 2018). Victims of violence often experience trauma, exhibiting symptoms of PTSD, anxiety disorders, and other psychological conditions (Afolayan et al., 2017).

Child Abuse and Neglect also trigger trauma in Nigeria. Child abuse and neglect are pervasive issues in Nigeria, with physical, sexual, and emotional abuse being common forms (Fakolade et al., 2019). These traumatic experiences have adverse effects on children's mental health and development (Adams et al., 2019). Without adequate support and intervention, the consequences of childhood trauma can extend into adulthood.

It has also been observed that pregnant women suffer a type of trauma called Perinatal Trauma. Pregnant women in Nigeria face significant challenges related to perinatal trauma, including pregnancy complications, childbirth difficulties, and child loss (Uwakwe et al., 2018). These traumatic experiences, coupled with limited access to appropriate healthcare, contribute to maternal mental health issues such as postpartum depression and anxiety.

It should be noted that there are so many categorizations of triggers of trauma beyond the ones discussed above. These are but some of the common ones identified by scholars. Others have been categorized as sub-types under the above types and causes of trauma in Nigeria.  

Communicating Trauma in Nigeria

Several studies have investigated the impact of communication strategies on trauma victims in Nigeria. These studies have consistently demonstrated the importance of empathy, clarity, and a supportive environment in effective communication with trauma victims.

A study by Adebayo et al. (2022) found that empathy-based communication significantly reduced anxiety and depression in trauma victims compared to standard communication. Their study employed a randomized controlled trial, comparing two groups: one receiving empathy-based communication and the other receiving standard communication. Trauma victims' anxiety and depression levels were measured at baseline and post-intervention.

A related study by Ogunsola et al. (2023), investigated the effectiveness of clear and concise communication with trauma victims in Nigeria. Their study revealed that trauma victims who received clear and concise information about their injuries and treatment options exhibited reduced anxiety and perceived greater control over their situation. The study employed a quantitative approach with assessments conducted before and after the intervention.

Similarly, Adebowale et al. (2021) explored the role of supportive environments in facilitating communication with trauma victims in Nigeria. They found that trauma victims who felt safe, confidential, and free from judgment during communication sessions reported greater emotional well-being and a higher willingness to seek further support. Their study employed a qualitative approach, conducting in-depth interviews with trauma victims who had experienced different communication environments. Thematic analysis was used to identify factors that contributed to or hindered effective communication.

Also, Nwankpa et al. (2020) emphasized the need for culturally sensitive communication, emphasizing the importance of understanding and respecting the unique cultural backgrounds and perspectives of trauma victims in Nigeria. Their study employed qualitative methods to identify cultural considerations that influence effective communication in trauma care.

Another related study by Ajeigbe et al. (2022) explored the integration of traditional healing practices and beliefs into trauma care, demonstrating that incorporating these culturally relevant elements can enhance communication and promote healing among trauma victims. Their hybrid research approach integrated both quantitative and qualitative methodologies for data collection to evaluate the influence of conventional healing methods on communication outcomes.

Similarly, Olanrewaju et al. (2023) advocated for community-based approaches to communication, recognizing the importance of increasing accessibility and acceptability of support services for trauma victims in Nigeria. Their community-based participatory research approach involved community members in designing, implementing, and evaluating communication strategies to address communication barriers and promote help-seeking behaviours.

Thinking along the same line of thought, Salami et al. (2022) highlighted the significance of gender-specific communication strategies, emphasizing the need to tailor communication approaches to address the unique experiences and needs of male and female trauma victims. Their quantitative study compared the effectiveness of gender-specific and gender-neutral communication strategies in reducing anxiety and depression among trauma victims.

A related study by Adegbenro et al. (2021) explored the potential of technology-based communication tools, demonstrating that utilizing mobile applications can expand access to support services and facilitate communication with trauma victims in remote areas of Nigeria. Their pilot study assessed the feasibility and acceptability of using a mobile application to provide trauma victims with information, resources, and peer support.

Current Communication Methods for Supporting Trauma Victims in Nigeria

Diverse communication approaches are currently employed to support trauma victims in Nigeria. Mental health professionals utilize various techniques which could be categorized under the broad spectrum of trauma-focused therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy, and psychoeducation to facilitate communication and provide support. The overarching goal of these approaches is to establish a secure and supportive environment, enabling trauma victims to articulate their feelings, thoughts, and experiences. The strategies encompass:

Psychoeducation as a trauma communication initiative involves providing trauma victims with information about the psychological effects of trauma, coping strategies, and available support services. These programs aim to empower individuals with knowledge to better understand and manage their experiences (Foa et al., 2021).

Another form of initiative for communicating with victims of trauma is telehealth services and crisis hotlines. These platforms allow individuals to access mental health professionals, counsellors, or trained volunteers who can provide immediate assistance, counselling, and referrals to local resources (Akinsulure-Smith et al., 2020).

Community Outreach and Awareness Campaigns is another potent tool communication tool. Community-based programs focus on raising awareness about trauma, reducing stigma, and promoting mental health literacy. These initiatives may involve workshops, seminars, and informational campaigns to educate communities on recognizing trauma symptoms and fostering a supportive environment (Odejide, 2021).

Support groups also provide a space for trauma survivors to share their experiences, express emotions, and receive peer support. These groups, whether in-person or virtual, facilitate connection and reduce isolation, promoting a sense of community among individuals who have faced similar challenges (Foa et al., 2021).

Culturally Tailored Approaches play a pivotal role in communicating with victims of trauma. Considering the diverse cultural landscape in Nigeria, some communication strategies may be tailored to align with cultural norms and sensitivities. Culturally competent approaches aim to acknowledge and integrate cultural perspectives into the communication process, ensuring that interventions resonate with the local population (Hinton, 2015).

Individual therapy sessions with a qualified mental health professional, as a type of communication, provide trauma victims with a secure and confidential space to share their experiences. Therapists employ evidence-based techniques, including Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), to assist individuals in processing their trauma and developing effective coping strategies.

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Group therapy provides an avenue for communication with trauma victims with the opportunity to connect with others who have experienced similar traumas. Sharing experiences in a supportive group setting can help victims feel understood, validated, and less isolated. Group therapy allows for peer support, validation, and the sharing of coping strategies.

Reflecting on this section, the common communication methods for supporting trauma victims in Nigeria are psychoeducation, telehealth services and crisis hotlines, organizing community outreach and awareness campaigns, the use of support groups, the adoption of culturally tailored approaches, the use of individual therapy sessions, and organizing group sessions.

It should be noted that lately, with technological innovation, other methods of supporting trauma victims have emerged, which are discussed in the next section.

Emerging Technology and Innovation in Communicating with Trauma Victims

As technology continues to advance, its role in trauma communication has become increasingly prominent. Innovations in the digital landscape offer new avenues for reaching and supporting trauma victims. This exploration of technology and innovation in trauma communication delves into the evolving landscape where digital solutions intersect with the sensitive needs of individuals navigating trauma.

We have earlier mentioned that telehealth services and online platforms have emerged as transformative tools in trauma communication. These platforms facilitate remote access to mental health professionals, allowing individuals to receive counselling, therapy, and support from the comfort of their homes. The accessibility of telehealth services becomes particularly crucial in regions where traditional mental health resources may be limited or inaccessible (Akinsulure-Smith et al., 2020).

Another emerging means of communication with trauma victims is the use of mobile applications for trauma support: The integration of mobile applications designed for trauma support provides a personalized and on-the-go approach to mental health care. These applications often offer features such as mood tracking, coping mechanisms, and immediate access to crisis helplines. Mobile apps cater to the evolving needs of trauma victims by providing easily accessible resources that can be discreetly utilized in real time (Ewelina et al., 2023).

Virtual Reality (VR) therapy is also at the forefront of innovative trauma interventions. Immersive experiences using VR technology allow individuals to engage in controlled and therapeutic environments. VR therapy has shown promise in treating conditions like PTSD by exposing patients to virtual scenarios that mirror their traumatic experiences, enabling controlled and gradual desensitization (Akinsulure-Smith et al., 2020).

Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Mental Health Assessment is another modern communication tool for communicating with trauma victims. Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a role in mental health assessment, offering the potential for early detection and intervention. AI algorithms analyze patterns in communication, such as online posts or text messages, to identify potential signs of distress or mental health challenges. This proactive approach enables timely support and intervention for individuals at risk (Ewelina et al., 2023).

Online Support Communities play a crucial role in trauma communication in the contemporary world. The internet has given rise to online support communities where trauma survivors can connect with others facing similar challenges. Forums, social media groups, and online chat platforms provide spaces for individuals to share their experiences, seek advice, and find a sense of community. These virtual support networks can be particularly valuable for those who may feel isolated in their offline environments (Akinsulure-Smith et al., 2020).

Wearable Technology for Stress Management has proven to be an effective new technology for communicating with trauma victims. Wearable technology, including devices like fitness trackers and health monitors, now incorporates features dedicated to stress management. These devices monitor physiological indicators such as heart rate and sleep patterns, offering users insights into their stress levels. Wearables may also include features like guided meditation or breathing exercises, providing tools to assist individuals in effectively managing stress and anxiety (Ewelina et al., 2023).

Reflecting on the foregoing, thus, technological advancement and innovation have introduced advanced tools for supporting communication with trauma victims. Tools such as telehealth services and crisis hotlines, mobile applications, virtual reality therapy, artificial intelligence for mental health assessment, online support communities and wearable technology for stress management. It should be noted that as the world advances, newer methods and tools for communicating with trauma victims are introduced to the market and the system.

The next section dwells on the strategies to be employed in communicating with victims of trauma using the various methods outlined above.

Strategies for Communicating with Trauma Victims

Effective communication with trauma victims is a delicate and nuanced process that requires a combination of empathy, cultural competence, and the establishment of trust. If society is to communicate effectively with trauma victims using the different methods discussed above, certain strategies have to be adopted to ensure efficacy in the communication process. This section discusses the strategies, encompassing key elements to facilitate meaningful and supportive communication.

The first strategy is to establish trust, which has proven to be an effective strategy for communicating with trauma victims. Building rapport and credibility is foundational to effective communication with trauma victims. Demonstrating genuine empathy and interest in the individual's experiences is crucial, creating a sense of connection and understanding. Consistently conveying reliability and honesty builds a foundation of trust, assuring trauma survivors that their concerns are taken seriously (Foa et al., 2021; Cloitre et al., 2009).

Creating a safe and supportive environment is equally essential. Communication should prioritize physical and emotional safety during interactions, fostering an environment where individuals feel secure in expressing their thoughts and emotions. Communicating confidentiality and emphasizing the importance of a judgment-free space contribute to the establishment of trust (Duan & Hill, 2018; Hinton, 2015).

Active listening has also been argued to be a cornerstone of effective communication with trauma victims. Acknowledging and validating the emotions expressed by trauma survivors fosters a sense of understanding and compassion. Demonstrating patience and empathy allows individuals to share their experiences at their own pace, empowering them to control the narrative of their trauma. Utilizing reflective listening and asking open-ended questions are effective techniques to confirm understanding and encourage further expression (Akinsulure-Smith et al., 2020; Cloitre et al., 2009).

Psychoeducation is another strategy said to play a pivotal role in empowering trauma victims with information about the effects of trauma and available support services. Offering clear and accessible information about common reactions to trauma helps normalize emotional responses and reduce feelings of isolation. Communicating that trauma is a natural response to distressing events and encouraging individuals to seek support as a strength rather than a weakness contributes to a supportive communication environment (Akinsulure-Smith et al., 2020; Foa et al., 2021).

Cultural competence as a strategy is integral to effective communication, recognizing that cultural factors influence the expression and interpretation of trauma experiences. Acquiring cultural competence through education and awareness of diverse cultural backgrounds enhances communicators' ability to engage sensitively with trauma survivors. Adapting communication styles to align with cultural preferences and involving cultural leaders or guides facilitates a deeper understanding and bridges potential communication gaps (Hinton, 2015; Street, 2017; Odejide, 2021).

Thus, establishing trust, creating a safe and supportive environment, active listening, psychoeducation, and cultural competence are some of the major strategies that can be used in communicating with victims of trauma in Nigeria, considering the rising cases of trauma in the country, if the situation is professionally managed and contained

Barriers to Effective Communication with Trauma Victims in Nigeria

Effective communication is crucial in providing support and intervention to trauma victims in Nigeria. However, several barriers hinder effective communication, making it challenging to connect with and assist individuals who have experienced trauma. Understanding these barriers is essential for developing strategies that overcome communication challenges and provide meaningful support. This article examines the existing barriers to effectively communicating with trauma victims in Nigeria.

Stigma and Cultural Beliefs serve as barriers to communicating with trauma victims. The stigma surrounding mental health and trauma remains prevalent in Nigerian society. Cultural beliefs and misconceptions often associate mental health challenges with personal weakness or spiritual afflictions (Togunde et al., 2020). This stigma can discourage individuals from seeking help and create barriers to open communication about traumatic experiences.

Limited Mental Health Awareness and Education have also been identified as a factor limiting effective communication with trauma victims. There remains a significant gap in mental health awareness and education in Nigeria. Many individuals, including healthcare professionals, lack proper training and understanding of trauma-related issues (Oladeji et al., 2019). This lack of awareness hinders effective communication as both victims and support providers may struggle to recognize and address traumatic experiences and their associated symptoms.

Language and Cultural Barriers have been identified as limiting communication with trauma victims in Nigeria. The diversity of languages and cultures in Nigeria presents a challenge to effective communication with trauma victims. Language barriers can impede the understanding of trauma narratives, leading to miscommunication and misinterpretation of distress signals (Oshodi et al., 2019). Cultural differences in the expression and interpretation of trauma symptoms may also influence communication effectiveness (Gureje et al., 2015).

Lack of Trauma-informed Approaches affects communication with trauma victims. A dearth of trauma-informed approaches in Nigerian healthcare and support systems compounds communication challenges. Without a trauma-informed framework, professionals may unintentionally retraumatize individuals, leading to a breakdown in communication and trust (Adeyemo et al., 2021). The absence of trauma-informed practices further impedes effective communication and hinders appropriate support for trauma victims.

Mental Health Service Accessibility affects

 communication with trauma victims in Nigeria. The constrained availability of mental health services stands as a notable impediment to establishing effective communication with trauma victims. In Nigeria, there exists a shortage of mental health professionals and a deficiency in mental health facilities, particularly in rural areas (Abdulmalik et al., 2015). The scarcity and cost constraints associated with mental health services pose significant barriers, hindering trauma victims from seeking assistance and engaging in meaningful communication with professionals.

Tailoring Communication Strategies for the Unique Needs and Cultural Sensitivities of Trauma Victims in Nigeria

Communication strategies must begin with a deep understanding of the diverse cultural landscape in Nigeria. Acknowledging cultural nuances, traditions, and belief systems is essential for establishing trust and ensuring that interventions resonate with the local population (Hinton, 2015).

Language Considerations should be considered in communicating with trauma victims in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious environment like Nigeria. Utilizing language that trauma survivors are comfortable with and ensuring linguistic accuracy is crucial. This includes recognizing regional dialects and expressions to enhance the accessibility and effectiveness of communication (Foa et al., 2021).

Incorporating traditional healing practices can enhance the cultural relevance of communication strategies. Collaborating with traditional healers and integrating culturally grounded approaches into mental health support acknowledges the richness of local healing traditions (Odejide, 2021).

Engaging with local communities and involving community leaders in the design and implementation of communication strategies fosters community ownership. Collaborative efforts ensure that interventions align with community values and address specific contextual challenges (Adebayo et al., 2022).

Leveraging storytelling, music, dance, and other expressive arts rooted in Nigerian culture provides alternative avenues for communication. These creative methods allow trauma survivors to express themselves in ways that may feel more culturally familiar and therapeutic (Duan & Hill, 2018).

Flexibility and Adaptability are key, by recognizing the diversity within Nigerian culture and understanding that individual preferences may vary is crucial. Communication strategies should be flexible and adaptable to cater to the unique needs of trauma survivors from different cultural backgrounds (Street, 2017).

From the foregoing, ways of tailoring communication strategies for the unique needs and cultural sensitivities of trauma victims in Nigeria encompass language consideration, incorporating traditional healing practices, engaging with local communities and leaders, flexibility and adaptability, leveraging story-telling, music, and dance.

Theoretical Framework

Within the context of research, a theoretical framework serves as a foundational structure that steers the evolution of a study. It provides a systematic framework for comprehending and making sense of the phenomena that form the core focus of investigation. In the context of "Rising Trauma Cases in Nigeria: How to Communicate with Victims," a theoretical framework could be developed to inform the study's design, methodology, and analysis.  One theory that can provide a framework for understanding and supporting effective communication with trauma victims in Nigeria is the Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) developed by Albert Bandura.

The Social Cognitive Theory posits that individuals learn and develop behaviours based on observation, modelling, and reinforcement. According to this theory, communication with trauma victims can be enhanced by addressing these components – self-efficacy, modelling and vicarious learning and reinforcement.

In terms of Self-efficacy, the theory posits that trauma victims may experience feelings of helplessness and low self-confidence. By fostering a sense of self-efficacy, communication can empower trauma victims and facilitate their active participation in their healing process.

By Modeling, according to the theory, trauma victims can benefit from observing positive models and engaging in role-play scenarios. Communication strategies can include providing examples of successful coping strategies and stories of individuals who have overcome similar traumas.

Vicarious learning, as a tenet of this theory, posits that trauma victims can learn from the experiences of others who have gone through similar circumstances. Sharing narratives of recovery and resilience can inspire hope and provide a sense of validation to trauma victims in Nigeria.

The reinforcement ideal of the theory proposes that encouragement and positive reinforcement are essential in reinforcing and rewarding adaptive coping strategies. Communication should focus on highlighting and reinforcing the strengths and progress made by trauma victims.

, by applying the principles of the Social Cognitive Theory, communication strategies can help trauma victims in Nigeria build resilience, develop effective coping mechanisms, and regain a sense of control in their lives.


The study adopts a qualitative design encompassing an in-depth literature review utilizing electronic databases such as PubMed, PsycINFO, and Google Scholar to explore the phenomenon. The search focused on trauma, communication, Nigeria, and victims. Articles meeting inclusion criteria (peer-reviewed, trauma cases in Nigeria, discussing communication strategies with empirical evidence, were selected. Relevant data on the three research questions were extracted from the articles reviewed. Relationships between themes of the research questions were explored, and findings were synthesized and interpreted about existing trauma communication theories and frameworks for a comprehensive overview.

Findings and Discussion

This exploratory study reveals an array of interreacting approaches, strategies, initiatives, causes and barriers to effective communication with trauma victims in Nigeria. The rising trauma cases in the country necessitates effective communication strategies that address the unique needs of trauma victims. The literature review revealed that trauma in Nigeria is caused by socio-political factors, gender-based violence, displacement, natural disasters, interpersonal violence, child abuse, and perinatal trauma. Traumatic experiences have significant societal implications, such as disrupting the social fabric, straining support systems, reducing societal resilience, and perpetuating an intergenerational cycle of trauma.

Trauma-informed care has emerged as a promising approach that focuses on creating a safe and supportive environment for victims. Various communication methods have been utilized to support trauma victims in Nigeria. Techniques commonly used include active listening, empathy, and validation of the victims' experiences. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) has also been employed, aiming to modify harmful thought patterns and behaviours associated with trauma. Group therapy, support groups, and peer support programs have been employed to provide victims with a sense of community and help them process their experiences. Others are psychoeducation, telehealth services and crisis hotlines, organizing community outreach and awareness campaigns, adoption of culturally tailored approaches, use of individual therapy sessions, and organizing group sessions.

Emerging methods are telehealth services and crisis hotlines, mobile applications, virtual reality therapy, artificial intelligence for mental health assessment, online support communities and wearable technology for stress management. These communication methods can be achieved effectively using certain strategies identified, such as establishing trust, creating a safe and supportive environment, active listening, psychoeducation, and cultural competence.

To buttress some of these points, Babatunde and Adebiyi (2017), writing on the Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) approach, demonstrated effectiveness in reducing trauma symptoms and improving mental health outcomes among trauma victims in Nigeria. Additionally, the study by Adejumo et al. (2020) highlighted the efficacy of group therapy in reducing post-traumatic stress symptoms and enhancing resilience among trauma survivors.

Effective communication with trauma victims in Nigeria is hindered by several barriers, including cultural beliefs and practices, language barriers, lack of awareness and understanding about trauma, stigma surrounding mental health, and limited resources and support services. Existing research on barriers to effectively communicating with trauma victims in Nigeria has identified several key factors. One commonly cited barrier is the cultural stigma surrounding mental health issues, which can lead to victims being hesitant to seek help or engage in open communication about their trauma. Studies have also revealed language barriers, with Nigeria's diverse ethnic groups and language challenges in effectively conveying information and understanding the needs of trauma victims. Additionally, limited resources and support services, particularly in rural areas, contribute to the communication gap.

Supporting the findings of other scholars, Ling and Jane (2019) conducted a study in Nigeria and found that the lack of awareness and understanding of trauma and its impact hindered effective communication with trauma victims. Another study by Okenna et al. (2020) highlighted that societal attitudes and cultural beliefs, such as the perception of mental health as a spiritual problem, affected both the victims' willingness to communicate and healthcare providers' ability to effectively address trauma.

Tailoring communication strategies to meet the specific needs and cultural sensitivities of trauma victims in Nigeria is crucial. Findings suggest that incorporating cultural beliefs and practices into communication can enhance engagement and trust. Involving community leaders, traditional healers, and religious leaders in the support system can help overcome cultural barriers and facilitate effective communication with trauma victims. Other ways of tailoring communication strategies to meet the specific needs and cultural sensitivities of trauma victims in Nigeria are flexibility and adaptability, leveraging story-telling, music, and dance.

Supporting these findings, a study by Atilola et al. (2018) highlights the importance of cultural competence in providing mental health care to trauma victims in Nigeria. The research emphasized the significance of acknowledging and respecting cultural practices, religious beliefs, and social structures to establish effective communication and support systems.


In conclusion, this study delves into the intricate landscape of communication strategies with trauma victims in Nigeria, addressing key research questions to illuminate the current approaches to communicating with trauma victims, barriers to communicating with them, and ways to tailor communication strategies to meet the cultural beliefs of the victims. Current communication approaches such as community-based support groups, integration of traditional healing practices, and the utilization of telehealth, exemplify a dynamic and adaptive response to the challenges faced by trauma victims. The identified barriers, encompassing mental health stigma, limited awareness, and restricted access to services, underscore the urgent need for comprehensive interventions. The recommendation to tailor communication strategies emphasizes the significance of cultural competence training for mental health professionals, aligning with broader efforts to foster understanding and resilience. This work contributes to the broader discourse on mental health in Nigeria by providing insights that can inform practical interventions and policies in the wake of rising trauma cases in the country.


The study recommends the following:

Destigmatization Campaigns: Initiatives aimed at destigmatizing mental health issues should be prioritized. Public awareness campaigns, community dialogues, and educational programs can play a crucial role in challenging societal taboos surrounding trauma and mental health in Nigeria.

Mental Health Initiatives Rooted in the Community: Implementing and expanding community-based mental health programs, including support groups and counselling services, can provide accessible and culturally sensitive spaces for trauma victims to share experiences and receive support. Collaborations with community leaders and organizations are key to the success of these programs.

Cultural Competence Training: Mental health professionals should undergo continuous training in cultural competence. This training will enhance their ability to navigate diverse cultural contexts, understand traditional healing practices, and communicate effectively with trauma victims, ensuring that interventions align with the cultural nuances of the Nigerian context.

Integration of Technology: Expanding the use of technology in mental health services, such as telehealth and online platforms, should be considered, particularly in regions with limited access to in-person services. This can enhance the reach of mental health support, providing a viable option for those facing geographical or resource constraints.

Government Policies and Funding: Advocacy for policies that prioritize mental health, along with increased funding for mental health infrastructure, is essential. Governments at various levels should allocate resources to establish and improve mental health facilities, train professionals, and support community-based initiatives.

Research on Trauma Narratives: Encouraging further research on trauma narratives and storytelling as therapeutic interventions can deepen our understanding of effective communication strategies. Studies exploring how trauma victims construct and share their narratives in diverse cultural contexts can inform the development of targeted interventions.

Inclusion of Trauma Survivors' Voices: In the development of communication strategies, it is crucial to include the perspectives and voices of trauma survivors. Their lived experiences can offer invaluable insights into the effectiveness and cultural appropriateness of interventions, contributing to a more patient-centred approach.

Collaboration Among Stakeholders: Foster collaboration among mental health professionals, community leaders, policymakers, and non-governmental organizations. A coordinated effort is necessary to address the multifaceted challenges of communicating with trauma victims, combining expertise, resources, and community knowledge.

Sustained Surveillance and Assessment: Put in place a system for continual scrutiny and evaluation of communication strategies. Regular evaluations of intervention effectiveness, coupled with input from trauma victims and community members, can guide ongoing adjustments and enhancements

Capacity Building in Underserved Areas: Prioritize capacity building and the establishment of mental health services in underserved areas. This involves training local healthcare workers, raising awareness, and creating networks to ensure that even remote communities have access to essential mental health support.

Implementing these recommendations requires a concerted effort from various stakeholders, emphasizing the collaborative nature of addressing mental health challenges in Nigeria. By adopting a multifaceted and culturally informed approach, the mental health landscape can be reshaped to better support trauma victims and promote overall community well-being.


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