About PARSA’s Psychological First Aid Trainings

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Psychological trauma can be defined as exposure incidents of overwhelming stress where stress comes from the death of others, the threat of death to a person, or injury to oneself or others by violence, natural disasters or accidents and this exposure exceeds the victims ability to cope or their ability to overcome emotional reactions to the event. This includes people who lost family members or friends in the event but were not present themselves.

In situations where families are fleeing conflict areas, and have experienced traumatic events often community members find themselves “counseling” each other as people try to cope with overwhelming psychological responses to the situation. Psychological first aid assists members of the family and communities as they try to cope with chaotic and disturbing challenges.

Psychological first aid adapts basic psychological principles to prepare community workers or professionals with no background in mental health services to provide simple but effective support for people suffering from symptoms of trauma, anxiety and depression, or people who are having difficulty coping with challenging circumstances.

In this training we identify cultural strengths that Afghan families, and communities have that if encouraged can provide natural healing for victims of trauma, and we help our trainees learn to identify and promote healthy networks of psychosocial support within the communities.p1050244

Beyond Democracy

dsc00189On September 11, 2001, my best friend called and asked me to turn on the television to view the fall of the twin towers.  She said, “Our lives have changed now, forever.” In 2002, I took my first trip back to Afghanistan since living there in the 1960’s with my family. In 2004, I moved back to Kabul to begin the life-changing odyssey that has spanned the last twelve years.

 While living and working here, I have been an informal ambassador for the US and other Western nations.  My title is “foreigner” in Dari, and I have traveled throughout Afghanistan, visiting remote villages as well as cities, working with the Afghan people.  I am feared, revered and welcomed equally.  I have had stones thrown at me, been chastised, and told to leave the country. I have also been praised, rescued from riots, and protected by the people of Afghanistan.

 At a time in history when my own country has turned to a fear-driven public dialogue and a highly polarized political atmosphere, I am reflecting on what I have learned while being here.

 In the first year that I came to Afghanistan, I witnessed a group of young Afghan men greet a couple of young American women.  One of the men grabbed one of the women and kissed her.

“Why did you just do that?” I asked. “You know it is taboo.”

“We are a democracy now” he replied. ” I get to do whatever I want!”

100_1253 I realized then that my American country’s democratic political system could be misunderstood. This system, as it stands right now, is not necessarily the answer to all social, economic, and political problems worldwide.  One person has one vote and this implies that one’s voice will be heard and have a say in the politics of a country. But on behalf of what?

 I welcome the new and intense dialogue emerging from the US and around the world, as it seems we are re-examining what exactly democracy means and what our fundamental values are when we exercise our right to vote.

 Recently, as I walked to my office, a small boy picked up a stone and threw it at me.  I stopped and asked him “Why did you throw that stone at me?”

“Because you are a foreigner!” 

“But I am your auntie also,” I said, “I am your foreign auntie.”

“Oh…sorry about that!” he said, and then he grabbed my hand and walked me to my office.

dsc07693Our young people, more globally interconnected than ever, are listening to us carefully and growing up in a world of our making.

I say to my government, do not ask me to choose between life for an Afghan child, an American child, a Syrian child, a child of color and my own child. And that is the world that we live in now, in spite of the fact that we are capable and have enough resources worldwide to end hunger and tackle other seemingly insurmountable global problems.  As with the young boy I encountered on the way to work, I believe that we can change our trajectory, but it is now time to set aside the angry rhetoric and put faces to the people who have no voice but will be affected by this new dialogue. I want to be an ambassador for my country on behalf of a democracy in which all people thrive.