HHRI Newsletter #4, June 2016

Welcome to Health and Human Rights Info (HHRI) Newsletter June 2016
HHRI provides information on mental health and human rights violations
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Puede encontrar la version en español aqui. 

Overview of content:

  • Supporting victims of torture and their families – life after torture
  • Further reading that highlight different aspects of life after torture
  • Award to Diana Kordon from EATIP, Argentina
  • Upcoming events

Supporting victims of torture and their families -life after torture  

The 26th of June is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. One of the themes this year will be on Life after torture. This important topic is raised by the IRCT. A number of institutions and organizations all around the world will mark this day with activities and information with a view to strengthen the combat against torture and in particular, strengthen international attention on rehabilitation and recreating life after torture. In this newsletter we will present some links that touch upon ways of helping families living with torture survivors and ideas as to how they can manage and deal with daily life and all the challenges that a family may encounter. Torture, as is well known, affects the individual as well as the family in many ways.

There is not much literature on how life in families develops in the after math of torture. There has been some research on family therapy with refugee families (Sveaass & Reichelt, 2001), and some studies based on families where member have disappeared, such as Paz Rojas’ book on “La interminable ausencia. Estudio médico, psicológico y político de la desaparición forzada de personas” (only in Spanish). Other studies and reports have dealt with consequences of severe human rights violations for family life.

But there are far more publications that may be very relevant in this context, based on experiences of living in families where one member is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many who have survived torture develop different types of post-traumatic reactions, and many develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And as referred to above, severe reactions associated with traumatic events will of course affect the entire family.

We have focused on links that give the survivor tools to handling everyday life, how to raise children, how to keep your relationship/marriage going, how to sleep at night, how to keep your job and aging with torture memories. We hope that it might help survivors gain more knowledge and to come to terms with their experiences, with their haunting memories and build new lives. For more information about torture and for PTSD go to our thematic pages.

Further reading that highlight different aspects of life after torture 

(more links here)

  • A new generation: How refugee trauma affects parenting and child development            E. van Ee 2013, A thesis covering different aspects of life after torture, as relationship between parents and child and broken relationships.
  • Politically-motivated torture and its survivors – Social, familial, and societal sequelae       J Quiroga, J. M. Jaranson Torture Journal 2005 2/3 IRCT page 27 and onwards. The social and economic consequences of torture have rarely been systematically studied. This is important for the less industrialized countries as well as for host countries providing asylum to large numbers of tortured refugees.
  • Cross cultural medicine – working with refugee survivors of torture B. Chester et N. Holtan 1992 Numerous factors must be taken into account to best provide for the health and well-being of refugee patients in developed countries. One issue that is rarely considered is the awful and not uncommon occurrence of political torture. Large numbers of refugees and other displaced persons are survivors of political torture. To facilitate the “re-making” of a survivor’s world, the health care professional must recognize the multifaceted effects of torture and displacement on the individual, family, and community.
  • Disclosure and silencing: A systematic review of the literature on patterns of trauma communication in refugee families   N.T. Dalgaard et E. Montgomery 2015 This systematic review aimed to explore the effects of different degrees of parental disclosure of traumatic material from the past on the psychological well-being of children in refugee families. A majority of studies emphasize the importance of the timing of disclosure and the manner in which it takes place, rather than the effects of open communication or silencing strategies per se.

Award to Diana Kordon from EATIP, Argentina

A health professional that for many years has been doing an incredibly important work in relation to assistance to torture victims, family of the disappeared, train helpers, raise awareness and has constantly been struggling against impunity, is the Argentinian psychiatrist Diana Kordon. She has recently been given the Barbara Chester award. For four decades, Dr Kordon has provided psychological services to the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo and others affected by atrocities committed by the military dictatorship in her country.

Upcoming events

We appreciate feedback and commentsThe Health and Human Rights Newsletter is an electronic newsletter launched by HHRI with an aim to give insight to a certain subject in the cross section of our work; human rights violations in war & conflict areas and mental health. Our intention is to form the newsletter as a short “lecture” where you can find relevant information regarding a specific subject with a mental health perspective. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have views to share or ideas/suggestions for forthcoming issues. We are also interested in spreading news about events and conferences held in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Please let us know of events and publications that can be useful for your fellow colleagues.

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Sincerely yours

Health and Human Rights Info
Elisabeth Ng Langdal
Executive Director

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