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Lecture educates about trauma

Meghan Manning | Thursday, March 25, 2010

 Many countries embroiled in conflict are not equipped to deal with victims of trauma, a mental health specialist said Wednesday in a lecture at the Hesburgh Center for International Studies.

Judith Bass, assistant professor at the Department of Mental Health at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health educated students, faculty and researchers on modern methods of responding to trauma in conflict societies.
Bass has investigated trauma in Uganda, Cambodia, Iraq and Brazil. 
“Four hundred fifty million people worldwide are affected by mental, neurological and behavioral problems, [yet] over 90 percent of countries do not have the proper systems to handle them,” Bass said.
She examined the complexities involved in identifying trauma and in implementing the proper solutions to assist its victims. 
“Mental health of citizens fundamentally impacts all aspects of society, such as economic stability and peace-building, but is often ignored in high-conflict environments,” she said.
Bass said the key to understanding trauma is recognizing that it is “not a single event, but rather a constellation of symptoms that individuals have been exposed to.”
Her presentation highlighted an array of modern methods to evaluate mental health, and she also discussed considering the socialization of violence, where children soldiers are both experiencing and perpetuating systems of abuse.
Junior Caitlin Aguiar, who has participated on mission trips to the Dominican Republic and Kenya, was one of several student attendees at the event. 
“I was really interested in how she stressed the need to do research in areas before applying social and therapeutic systems,” she said. “It seemed that her efforts really understood the importance of this in order to use resources in the most effective manner.” 
In the question and answer session following the event, Bass responded to an inquiry on how her team’s research is being implemented to help victims. 
“We are trying to identify what works in association with humanitarian organizations, and critique what doesn’t in order to improve those systems,” Bass said. 
Bass told The Observer after the event that she hopes her investigations will ultimately prove two things: “that it is possible to do good research in high-conflict areas, and that not every method works for every problem.” 
She said theoretical investigations can be applied toward peace-building, and a more effective promotion of healing can occur for victims of trauma.