Human beings are remarkably resilient in the face of adversity. Yet human actions are often the cause of many of the most common and most severe traumatic reactions, as seen in child abuse, gender-based violence, torture, slavery, forced displacement, and war. All take a profound toll on psychological well-being, ranging from individual reactions--including depression, acute stress reactions, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other anxiety disorders—to the disruption of crucial support networks within communities.
Trauma is often particularly prevalent in response to the brutalities of war and oppressive regimes. Children witness the fear, humiliation, and death of their parents. Landmines mangle bodies. Soldiers, sometimes themselves only children, are thrown into the lethal chaos of gun battles. Women are raped, abducted, and threatened with death. The lingering effects of credibly imminent annihilation, of extreme sexual abuse, and of the shock of neighbors transformed into mortal enemies have all been well documented. Attention to the sufferings of trauma and the needs of individuals and groups to reintegrate into reasonably trustworthy human communities is therefore a key task in post-violence societies.
Psychologists and other mental health professionals play a significant role in the treatment of traumatic stress, and increasingly, in the prevention of traumatic reactions through primary (e.g., preventing exposure to trauma), secondary (e.g., preventing the development of PTSD immediately after exposure to trauma), and tertiary (e.g., preventing the worsening of PTSD once it has emerged) means. At the same time, it is critical that those offering help resist any temptation to automatically apply frameworks reflecting a potentially inappropriate Western cultural bias when assessing reactions to severe adversity. It is also important to distinguish those individuals and communities where pre-existing methods of coping and repair are likely to produce resilience from those settings where active intervention is urgently needed.
Psychologists for Social Responsibility and its members are involved in efforts to tackle these challenges through research, education, intervention, and advocacy. In particular, PsySR’s Program on Peacebuilding and Reconciliation focuses on many of the issues raised in this brief overview. Please contact Coordinators Paula Green (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Jancis Long (email@example.com) for more information or to become involved in the program’s trauma-related activities.
A Graduate Level Curriculum For Trauma Intervention and Conflict Resolution
This Graduate Level Curriculum for trauma intervention and conflict resolution in ethnopolitical warfare was prepared by a joint task force of the American and Canadian Psychological Associations. PsySR served as the secretariat for this important project.
Links and Resources for Learning More and Taking Action
International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
ISTSS is an international multidisciplinary, professional membership organization that promotes advancement and exchange of knowledge about severe stress and trauma. This knowledge includes understanding the scope and consequences of traumatic exposure, preventing traumatic events and ameliorating their consequences, and advocating for the field of traumatic stress.
National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
The National Center for PTSD (NCPTSD) aims to advance the clinical care and social welfare of U.S. Veterans through research, education and training on PTSD and stress-related disorders.
National Institute of Mental Health
NIMH supports innovative science that will profoundly transform the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders, paving the way for a cure. The NIMH mission is to reduce the burden of mental illness and behavioral disorders through research on mind, brain, and behavior.
These Trauma Pages of David Baldwin, Ph.D., focus primarily on emotional trauma and traumatic stress, including PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) and dissociation, whether following individual traumatic experience(s) or a large-scale disaster. The purpose of this award winning site is to provide information for clinicians and researchers in the traumatic-stress field.