Mental health care professionals from around the country have traveled to MU to learn how to treat children and families who have been exposed to trauma. But a group of professionals from Iraq is unable to attend the Summer Institute of Psychosocial Trauma.
The annual Summer Institute, hosted by MU’s International Center for Psychosocial Trauma, is in its 10th year of existence and is headed by Dr. Arshad Husain, professor and chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at MU.
On July 8, Husain will travel to Amman, Jordan, where he will meet with 20 Iraqis. He originally wanted to bring them to the summer institute, but in the post-Sept. 11 environment it has become very difficult to obtain visas for them. When the conference was founded 10 years ago the attendees were primarily foreign. Now they are mostly local.
Husain has already traveled to the Middle East to work with Iraqis. In October he traveled to Kuwait with a group from the United States to work with mental health care professionals from Iraq.
Husain said one unique thing about working with Iraqi professionals is their country’s sophistication. The focus of his trip was talking with mental health professionals and re-developing their care system.
“Their basic training is very good, but they don’t know what has transpired in the last 15 years that they have been isolated,” Husain said.
Working in Kuwait with Iraqis, Husain found they are very cautious and suspicious of each other.
“They came as a group, but they didn’t have complete confidence in what the other group members represent,” Husain said. This was quite different from what Husain had seen in other areas of the world such as Bosnia.
Husain believes that this fear of each other “will change because it has to.”
Until things become safer, Husain said he will have to travel to neighboring countries to train the Iraqis.
Husain founded the center in 1994 because of the need to treat children suffering from trauma due to the civil war in Bosnia. Since the center’s inception, he has traveled to war torn countries such as Kosovo, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Fred Overton, a certified psychiatric nurse at Royal Oaks Hospital in Windsor, decided to attend this summer’s institute because he primarily works with traumatized adolescents. Although they are not suffering the effects of war, he does see a lot of children who suffer from abuse and neglect.
Overton said many techniques used to care for children in war situations can also be used for children suffering from neglect and abuse.
MU professor emeritus Wayne Anderson of Columbia joined the group in the summer of 1995, when 30 people from Sarajevo and 15 from Oklahoma City attended the conference.
Anderson gave a presentation Wednesday morning about using mental imaging techniques to deal with trauma.
“The important thing about what we are doing is giving teachers and physicians the proper variety of techniques,” to help people deal with trauma, Anderson said.
Anderson said due to the universality of human problems, certain techniques and certain types of therapy work with people regardless of what language they speak or what their religion is.