Trauma and resilience policies

Defending vulnerability

06/12/2019   Read time: 2 min

At a conference on psychosocial issues in the medico House, experts from eleven countries defended support on a basis of solidarity for people in need. By Usche Merk.

They came from Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Afghanistan, Egypt, Morocco, Congo, Mexico, Poland, Italy and Germany to participate in a conference from 19-20 October 2018, organised by medico jointly with its partners: Colleagues committed to psychosocial work with refugees and/or in war and crisis regions. Besides sharing practical approaches, the meeting made also possible a stocktaking of the problems in dealing with concepts such as trauma and resilience. Growing attention to trauma is not leading to increased awareness and prevention of violent experiences – on the contrary: deliberate attacks on psychological integrity and ability to act, and on cooperative structures are increasing in many regions and areas.

Colleagues from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan reported on their daily experience of how systematic traumatisation of the civilian population has become an explicit element of war and terror strategies. There is a similar situation for the repressive strategies of old and new authoritarian regimes in Palestine, Egypt or Turkey, which rely on systematic torture and intimidation as much as arbitrariness and public humiliation. Not least in Europe, with its strategies of deterrence and sealing its borders, exclusion and lack of empathy are accompanied by increasing racist and right-wing terror on the streets and on the internet. In this situation, there is a growing need for psychosocial help, while at the same time its instrumentalisation is increasing. Colleagues from crisis regions report how help is becoming a fig leaf for exclusion processes and the rejection of political solutions for preventing violence. In practice, these programmes to promote resilience also frequently serve to prevent stable, long-term provision of help. Instead, people are left to their own resources as quickly as possible. In Europe, traumatisation among refugees is increasingly being interpreted as a security problem. Those affected are seen as potentially dangerous. In Germany, for example, people are being deported from psychiatric institutions.

Psychosocial work is coming under pressure to serve as a control instrument. There was consensus at the conference that the resilience discourse has become inhumane by demanding that people deal with any crisis by themselves. Instead of responding to a logic of destruction by “strengthening resilience”, colleagues called for defending human vulnerability. People cannot bear, endure or overcome everything, and trauma is not easy to treat. At the end, the experts agreed that psychosocial work has to be combined with commitment to politics and human rights, and has to take a stand against the conditions causing the injuries.


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