01.01.2013 When forgetting doesn't work
Posttraumatic stress disorders. A new publication from the Swiss Red Cross (SRC) provides clearly presented information on trauma and its consequences.
War, expulsion, torture or rape: people can be traumatised by many types of occurrence. Earthquakes and road accidents can also cause trauma, but human violence usually results in more profound psychological damage than natural disasters or accidents. Migrants are particularly subject to trauma. "It's estimated that one in four migrants in Switzerland is traumatised", says Thomas Hofer, from the Ambulatorium für Folter- und Kriegsopfer (SRC's outpatient clinic for the victims of torture and war), and author of the information brochure "Wenn das Vergessen nicht gelingt" [When forgetting doesn't work].
Recognising trauma and seeking help
The brochure has been funded by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) in the framework of the National Programme Migration and Health and is aimed at traumatised individuals, particularly migrants, and their families. It furnishes clearly presented information on the origin, symptoms, consequences and management of trauma and posttraumatic stress disorders in adults and children. According to Hofer, "the brochure is designed to help traumatised people recognise their condition and accept help".
Permanent stress and sleep disorders
Constantly recurring memories of a painful event are characteristic of a posttraumatic stress disorder. At the same time, the victims try to suppress the experience and numb their feelings to reduce their suffering. They are in a state of permanent stress and constant hyperalertness. This can result in sleep disorders, depressions, anxiety states or even suicide. The psychological symptoms are often accompanied by somatic problems such as back and stomach pain and headache.
Good prognosis for treatment
Posttraumatic stress disorders generally respond well to treatment. "The most effective treatment is psychotherapy aimed at processing and accommodating the original experience", Hofer explains. Medication can also help relieve certain symptoms but is no substitute for psychotherapy. The brochure provides an overview of contact organisations and a list of bodies working specifically with migrants.
Brochure in five languages
"Wenn das Vergessen nicht gelingt – Ein psychisches Trauma kann alle treffen" [When forgetting doesn't work – psychological trauma can affect anyone]. Published by the Swiss Red Cross (SRC), 32 pages, available in German, Albanian, French, Turkish, Croatian/Serbian/Bosnian. Download free of charge or order from www.migesplus.ch.
Martin Wälchli, National Programme Migration and Health, firstname.lastname@example.org