By Mary Jo Harwood & Janice Almond
The Antares Foundation and the Center for Disease Control suggest that nearly 1 out of 3 aid workers report significant symptoms of PTSD upon returning from assignment. Most organizations brief their member participants on purpose of mission, logistics, and cultural awareness of host settings as well as a multitude of other details needed for projects to succeed. Few organizations or project leaders prepare team members for exposure to the intense suffering, deprivation and harsh environments that contributes to traumatic reactions and vicarious trauma.
The world can often look and feel different as a result of the work done in countries with protracted violence. It is not uncommon that the pain witnessed becomes internalized and alters one’s own psychological and physical wellbeing. Intense and powerful images, sounds, smells and tactile experiences can become intrusive in everyday life. Recognizing this and being good stewards of trauma exposure response, provides opportunities for self-care and emotional regulation that enables one to continue working.
Mediators Beyond Borders International (MBBI) — an international non-profit advocating for the use of mediation to build peace — has provided the guidance and resources to combat the impacts of exposure to violence — through its Trauma-Informed Peacebuilding & Development Assistance (TIPDA) training and consultation service. TIPDA is grounded in the latest neurobiological theory, and 30 years of research driven best practices in the field. During the training: participants gain knowledge about how the brain processes trauma; time is spent on understanding why specific memories or reactions are activated when stimuli similar to what participants experienced during the traumatic event are repeated in their everyday life; ways to regulate those reactions are demonstrated and practiced; and the techniques shared are applicable to self and providing peer support. Information on the impact of traumatic experiences on organizations and teams is also included.