War trauma victims finish training in counseling

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/19 July) — Fifty-four trauma victims, most of them displaced by fighting  between warring groups in Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces, yesterday completed a three-day healing and training on psycho-social support and post-traumatic management held at the Oblates of Mary Immaculate shrine at Barangay Binoligan here.

Of the 54 participants, 20 of them were trained to become trauma counselors and facilitators, said Fr. Edgardo de Jesus of the Psycho-Trauma Clinic of the University of Santo Tomas (UST).

De Jesus, one of the trainers, said that at least half of the participants were between 14 and 22 years old and most of them were women who experienced traumas caused by war.

“All of them have their own ‘wounded-ness’ because of wars but we trained them to become ‘de-briefers’ and ‘first responders’ in times of calamities, be it man-made or natural,” he added.

If the suffering is not “released,” the person will likely suffer a post-traumatic syndrome or severe anxiety disorder, the priest said.

During the training, the participants learned basic communication skills, including listening and the art of asking questions to patients with post-traumatic disorders.

To become an effective trauma counselor, one must possess empathy and compassion, de Jesus said.

“It would be easy for these trainers to become effective counselors because they can easily relate to the patients. They themselves were victims of wars,” he noted.

One of the participants was Manny whose father, an Army soldier, was killed in a roadside bombing, along with the municipal mayor of Datu Piang in Maguindanao, on December 22, 2002.

Manny’s father was the security escort of the late Datu Piang Mayor Datu Saudi Ampatuan, son of detained former Maguindanao Governor Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr.

Manny said his father’s death caused trauma not only to him but to the whole family as well.

The killing took place almost eight years ago, “yet the pain of losing a father is still there,” he said.

But Manny, when asked if he wanted to take revenge for his father’s death, said:  “I have already forgiven them.”

He appeared to have already emotionally disengaged himself from the trauma.
“Through help of my family and friends, I already let go of it,” he said.

The UST Psycho-Trauma Clinic has partnered with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in conducting this kind of training-workshop for internally displaced persons from North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

“We, at the DSWD, in collaboration with other agencies, are training community women volunteers on mental health and psycho-social supportin emergency setting. What we’re doing is for the people in the
community to be aware of what they’re supposed to do especially for these children or the affected population that have encountered traumatic experiences or situations,” said Suzette Agcaoili of DSWD
central office.

“The trainees are taught on psychological first aid, wherein the trauma counselor tries to process what happened, keep them calm… provide a safe place where there’s participation in the community.  It’s like alleviating the people affected by traumatic events and situations so that they would be able to come back to normalcy,” she added. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)