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Trauma, coping with

Restoring and sustaining the capacity of people to participate actively in their life after traumatising experiences

A psychological trauma destroys a person’s feeling of security, attacks our basic human sense of trust, severely violates personal boundaries, undermines self-respect, and creates an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. The consequences of this can be panic attacks, depressions, sleep disturbances, chronic pain or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which all have severe adverse effects on the life of those affected for years after the traumatic events.

In the clinical understanding of trauma, the consequences of violence are individualised. The focus is on the violent event as a singular experience.

This understanding sees trauma as a single experience of an individual whose existing personal resources are insufficient to cope with that experience. The approach taken by medica mondiale, focusses primarily on the restoration and/or sustenance of the capacity of women in post-conflict regions (or in their land of refuge, such as Germany) to participate actively in their life. Our approach is therefore one of empowerment or enhancing resources. Our experience shows that people who have been through extreme experiences are not necessarily ill. Survivors of sexualised violence can potentially be traumatised, but not all of them suffer from long-term chronic consequences of trauma.

We do not reduce women to the role of victim. In spite of their potentially traumatising experience, these women have a range of talents and resources which can serve them and their society to help overcome the incidents of violence. We have seen that trauma is a process, and consideration of this process involves consideration of the political and (overall) societal context as well as of the individual experiences and individual resilience.

After all, it was the general conditions of society that led to the injuries: for example, the perpetuation of patriarchal, discriminatory, racist or violent structures which led to warlike actions. Furthermore, cumulative injuries are caused by these general conditions since they lead to new, repeated experiences of powerlessness and ostracism. And it is these general conditions in society which prevent an end to the violence.

So dealing with trauma does not only necessitate looking at the traumatising experience, but also the ways in which society and government deal with these acts.

See also “Stress- and Trauma-sensitive Approach (STA)"