Israeli and US trauma experts to help Sri Lanka

While hurricane remains in the headlines, it's still too early to treat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Although the Louisiana hurricane remains in the headlines and has caused a great deal of dislocation, it is still too early for psychologists to treat victims for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the meantime, a team of Israeli and American experts in psychological trauma are leaving this month for Sri Lanka to help victims of last December's tsunami to cope with their emotional distress. Eleven senior mental health professionals, led by Professor Mooli Lahad of the Community Stress Prevention Center (CSPC) in Kiryat Shmona and Dr. Danny Brom of the Israel Trauma Coalition, will teach more than 200 local healthcare providers to care for those affected by the disaster. The project, which is being carried out together with Sahanaya (the National Institute of Mental Health of Sri Lanka), is aimed at teaching health-care and community workers to recognize and treat psycho-trauma. The cooperative efforts are being facilitated through the UJA-Federation of New York's Israel Trauma Coalition, as well as the Federation's Network Trauma and Disaster Consortium. Other partners in the project are the Health Ministry in Jerusalem and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which provided a grant to support this project. Lahad said the effort would rely heavily on cooperation with local experts in Sri Lanka, as it was essential to culturally adapt Israeli and American methodologies to the local system to ensure continuity. Moreover, he said that it was important to integrate existing community resources to maximize the effectiveness of the project. In the first stage, the joint Israeli-American team would work with local professionals to provide four one-week courses that would cover the fields of PTSD, bereavement and resilience. They would also teach assessment, nonverbal and art therapy, simulations and other practical tools. At a later stage, 100 additional trainers would receive four one-week courses in education, health or community.