Migrations and interculturality - (Simultaneous Translation)
Chairman: Franco Valenti
Pina Deiana (Italy): Migratory contexts and MSF interventions for survivors of intentional violences.
Melinda Ashley Meyer DeMott, Phd (Norway): From Being and Longing to Belonging Expanding the "range of play" with traumatized people living in Exile.
In the last 10 years, MSF is intervening more and more in migration contexts where people live in transit, waiting for an international protection, hoping to find a safe country to restart their lives. Greece, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya and other countries along main migratory routes, are some of the places where the migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are stuck for years. MSF is providing medical and mental health care for survivors of intentional violence who are living in places where human rights are often not recognized. This population shows the human suffering and embodies collective traumas caused by global economic interests in a geopolitical chess game fuelled by the conflicts and balances of world powers.
In these non-places where the social structure of the community doesn’t exist, where the rules of civil cohabitation with the host population are based on the categories of known/unknown, internal/external, national citizen/foreigner, the medical paradigm is insufficient to provide an appropriate care to our patients and support them in their rehabilitation process. In these MSF projects, the mental health component is often predominant and more complex than the medical one. Psychologists and psychiatrists have an expertise to treat past individual traumas of patients living in a safe place but, in these situations, an exclusive analysis of the individual symptomatology can often lead to a category fallacy.
The challenge for us is to intervene on the individual level of suffering but also through an acknowledgment of the broader frame where violence occurs.
What MSF psychologists and psychiatrists are witnessing in these contexts is an endless violence with distant origins, often related to national and international political responsibilities. Material persecutors are the last link in a long chain of collective responsibilities. The difficulty of identifying the deepest roots of perpetuating violence leaves patients and clinicians focused on the individual level. The risk of a massive medicalization of suffering is an inevitable consequence of this approach that often leaves the invisible wounds untreated.
The presentation aims to describe these contexts where MSF is frequently the only actor to offer psychological care, as well as its challenges and shortcomings.
Melinda Ashley Meyer DeMott, Phd (Norway)
From Being and Longing to Belonging Expanding the "range of play" with traumatized people living in Exile.
Living in exile means that a person is living involuntarily in a country. Exile is often reported as a more devastating experience than torture and is a new trauma on top of the old. Living in a different culture breaks the continuity in one’s life. Responses to living in exile include isolation, lack of self-esteem, apathy, numbness, depression and guilt. Since they have already lost so much, there is a strong fear of getting attached and risk the pain of separating again. It's better to stay isolated and live in a vacuum, than engaging in the present and look to the future.
Refugees often don’t have words to express what they have been through. The fear of expressing oneself contains the fear of not being accepted. Often the authorities do not believe their stories. The refugees can bring no witnesses or evidence to prove that their stories are true. They do not know the language of the new country, and retreat into silence and isolation. This leads to questions about identity such as: Who am I now? Will I find friends? Will I adjust to a new political and economic system? Will my soul find nourishment in this new culture? How can I live with these new embodied experiences? This can even lead to the ultimate question: Do I have a right to exist?Expressive Arts in Transition (EXIT) involves a combination of movement, visual art, music and intermodal-psychodrama. The intermodal approach builds on the understanding that all expressions are body based and connected to the senses.
Our body and our psyche are interlinked. After trauma the world is experienced with a different nervous system. The survivor`s energy now becomes focused on suppressing inner chaos, at the expense of spontaneous involvement. The attempt to control unbearable physiological reactions can result in a whole range of physical symptoms, including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and other autoimmune deceases. This explains why it is critical for trauma treatments to engage the entire organism, body, mind and brain. Traumatic experience is captured in our bodies therefor victims of violence and war often escape their own body what means they disconnect from their body-awareness in order to not feel the pain of the memory (Van der Kolk 2014).
EXIT is a quantitative and qualitative research project with 208 unaccompanied minor refugee boys aged 15 to 18.
The EXIT group manual is developed for stabilizing people living in exile in an uncertain and stressful situation. EXIT focuses on training spontaneity, enhancing movement, imagination, future scenario, engagement, connection, here and now, safety and responsibility.
The content of the manual and research results will be presented.
Short biography of the presenter: Professor Melinda Ashley Meyer is one of the founders of Expressive Arts Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding Program at the European Graduate School (EGS). She was a senior researcher at the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies (NKVTS) (2004–2016) and the director and co-founder of the Norwegian Institute for Expressive Arts and Communication (NIKUT). She is a psychodrama director and a trained bioenergetics-therapist. She is the co-founder of the psychodrama training program at NIKUT, a founding member of FEPTO and a member of the task force for peace in FEPTO and IAGP. Since 1983 she has focused on the combination of community, group and individual psychotherapy. She worked as an Expressive Arts- and group psychotherapist at the Psychosocial Centre for Refugees, Norway, with torture survivors and war refugees from 1990-2004. Today she is the Program Director of the Global Health and Conflict Transformation certificate program at the European Graduate School, campus Malta and senior professor at the University of South East Norway, Expressive Arts Program. EXIT groups have been implemented in Norway, Germany, Africa, Mexico and South America. EXIT is part of the Certificate Program in Global Health, Peace building and Conflict Transformation at the European Graduate School, campus Malta and at The Norwegian Institute for Expressive Arts, Oslo, Norway.
She has made three documentary films, written numerous articles, contributed to several books.