The impact of trauma, for human and world development as well as for world peace, can hardly be overestimated. Whether due to man-made or natural disasters (or even ‘normal’ distressing life events), current levels of trauma as well as the residual and often devastating effects of past traumas are staggering, easily running into the tens of millions of victims. Effective large-scale trauma interventions, including innovative therapy approaches, could significantly help to alleviate the immense and insidious inner suffering. Such interventions could also increase social, economic and cultural productivity through enhanced individual educability, creativity and wellbeing. And they could also help interrupt the intergenerational transmission of violence and abuse.
Recent research has opened up important new, cost-effective possibilities in the field of trauma therapy, although these positive developments are not well known yet. The Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), now also recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO), gives cause for optimism that evidence-based trauma treatment can be scaled up. For example, its rapid effectiveness is measured in hours and (consecutive) days, not weeks and months – a huge operational advantage in resource-poor conflict and disaster situations. EMDR is minimally intrusive and minimally dependent on verbalization of the trauma experience – two more plusses that help lower the access barrier to services and reduce cultural resistance to treatment. Finally, EMDR has good potential as a community-based primary care intervention using well-trained and well-supervised paraprofessionals, a comparative strength that makes greater outreach possible.
Experts in mental health, developmental and humanitarian issues will present and discuss these innovations and their implications.
Representatives from Permanent Missions to the United Nations Office at Geneva, from United Nations agencies, programmes and funds, and from international/developmental/health community in Geneva are cordially invited. More program details will be made available in due course.