Trauma is a global issue
Trauma is a global issue. We only need to listen to the news to see distressing and shocking images of natural and man-made disasters, war-torn regions and displaced people, quite apart from the traumatic events that impact less widely but more frequently.
At KRTS International, we’ve been privileged to work with many professionals around the world who are striving to provide quality services and care for those affected by crises and trauma.
When collaborating with other countries and cultures, there are many factors that need to be taken into account, some being more obvious than others. But even if we think a country or culture is similar to our own, it is important not to assume anything and to adapt what we do, and how we do it, to reflect diverse cultural needs and not impose our particular world view on others. This is not always straightforward!
We need to be aware of our own prejudices and stereotypes – we all have them! In fact, we would find it hard to manage life if we weren’t able to make assumptions, but this can adversely affect how we interact with people from a different background or culture and can create barriers to care.
Awareness of social group identity can help us adapt what we do. Humans are social animals and need to feel the safety of other group members who are “like us.” It can be very hard to trust and accept help from people who we don’t perceive as part of “our group” whether this is through for example, different nationality, race, creed, sexuality or any other strong group characteristic (see recommended reading)
We can act as members of a specific group defining ourselves as “us” and “we” rather than “me” and “I” but a group can only be a group when it is compared against others, explained in Social Identity Theory via the concept of the in-group and out-group (Tajfel, 1978).
The act of cognitive separation into in-groups and out-groups provides us not only with the group label, but also with other attitudes and behaviours that are appropriate to that in-group, known as group norms. These norms can determine how strongly another individual or out-group is perceived as “like us” depending on how closely their group norms match. Group norms determine attitudes to help-seeking and how members perceive and treat symptoms of illness thereby influencing physical and mental health, mortality and suicide rates (Jetten, Haslam, & Haslam, 2012). It can be harder to accept help from people who don’t share our group norms or identity.
Sadly, mental health stigma can be another global issue and we have to work hard to overcome this in order to make services accessible. We learn from each collaboration and input, but the consensus amongst professionals is that education and empowerment are key. The complex physiological and psychological response to trauma is a common denominator in human beings regardless of where they live or what their culture is and because it is universal it can break down barriers.
We have delivered services globally for many years and our work has been translated into Spanish, Swedish and German. We’re proud to have delivered services and education across 5 continents, most recently a keynote presentation by Dr Liz Royle at the 8th Congress of the Iranian Psychological Association. We know that there is no 1 size fits all and the world would be very diminished if we were all the same! We must tread respectfully and sensitively whenever we reach out to help someone who may perceive us (rightly or wrongly) as not like them.
For therapists, a great read is the internationally acclaimed Dr Liz Royle contributed a chapter on the importance of considering culture when creating accessible services “Cultural Competence and Healing Culturally Based Trauma with EMDR Therapy: Innovative Strategies and Protocols.”
For more information and useful resources on trauma, please see the following link.