A scientific friend and colleague, Professor Thomas Elbert from Konstanz University in Germany, has had a long interest in applying “simple” treatments to individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSDs). With his wife Maggie and others, he has developed and applied such treatments to war victims, primarily in Africa and Sri Lanka. There, literally millions of individuals have endured great personal losses and multiple horrifying experiences. If and when these individuals are resettled back to their homes in Uganda or Liberia or Sierra Leone or Rwanda or Sudan or the Congo Republic or wherever, it is not enough to take away the gun from the child soldier, or to give the adults a few tools and household goods and farm animals and send them back to their farms and villages to be happy again. A large proportion of them are carrying all of that wounding within their brains and spirits, and disturbing memories are sustained in the immediate mental present, and just won’t go away on their own.
A charitable organization developed by the Elberts and their colleagues (the Vivo Foundation) is dedicated to helping these populations overcome their PTSD. This is where the “simple” treatment need comes in: How on earth can you provide any measure of adequate treatment of the psychological disorders of this massive population of people in need of help? The Foundation’s strategy has been to train volunteer â€˜therapists’ in refugee camps and affected communities in the use of easily-taught psychotherapeutic strategies to help affected individuals put their traumas back into their proper place in the earlier history of their lives. While we could argue about whether or not this is the most sophisticated way to treat this serious malady, it IS deliverable, and has already helped many, many thousands of individuals.
One scientific outcome from these efforts: A clear demonstration that the probability of developing PTSD is a direct function of the NUMBER of horrifying events that you experience. When that number exceeds 4 or 5, it is the exceptional individual who is not damaged for life- if something is not done about it. What a world we live in, that so many people have to live with such cumulative neurological trauma, to enable us to collect definitive scientific data about such a subject.