Healing the Wounds of War

To continue helping populations severely impacted by the devastating effects of war, The Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM) embarks on a new and critical phase of its Healing the Wounds of War (HWW) program.

The Center held its first training for Palestinian mental health professionals in Gaza City from July 2-7. The CMBM announced today that it received a grant from The Atlantic Philanthropies totaling $2.23 million to help create a more effective and sustainable approach to treating psychological trauma in Gaza and Israel -- over a three-year period.

"We are so pleased that The Atlantic Philanthropies has generously funded this program, providing us with an extraordinary opportunity to work with mental health leaders in Gaza who serve an entire population facing psychological trauma," said James S. Gordon, M.D., Founder and Director of CMBM and formerly Chair of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy. "Our program is truly unique in that we work with both sides -- Palestinians and Israelis -- and with people on each side who have widely and passionately different ideas about religion and politics. We offer them a scientifically validated and culturally acceptable way to help them recover from their stress and trauma and to sustain them psychologically as they work toward peace with one another."

The CMBM's method, which combines psychological self-care with scientifically validated "mind-body skills" -- such as meditation, guided imagery and biofeedback -- as well as group support, helps leaders in health, mental health, education and religion to recover from their own stress and trauma. CMBM trains these leaders to use the same kind of approach with children and adults who, in staggering numbers, are suffering from anxiety and depression, nightmares and flashbacks, aggression and emotional isolation -- the key symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"In many ways, I think this program can be considered one of healing the healers," said Naomi Baum, Ph.D. Director, National School Intervention Project at the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma. "Dr. Gordon and his capable staff were successful in bringing a certain calmness to the group and were able to support and contain the group, in a way that I think somebody from inside Israel, might not have been able to do. Being an 'outsider' they were able to effectively work with the group from a non-political stance, bridging wide differences within the group, and allowing the group members to address their own issues in a non-threatening and safe manner."

In Gaza, CMBM is training representatives from leading governmental and non-governmental organizations, including the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Gaza Community Mental Health Programme and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Participants are also coming from Palestinian Ministry of Social Affairs, UNICEF, Gaza's three universities and the Red Crescent Society.

In this summer's training of 90 leaders in mental health, a special emphasis will be placed on recruiting professionals who have been working with the most traumatized populations -- children, women and men who have lost family members and homes, and residents of the Gaza refugee camps. CMBM teaching faculty include Christians, Jews and Muslims who are highly skilled physicians, psychologists, and social workers who have worked extensively, as members of Dr. Gordon's team, with traumatized populations.

In addition to its Gaza project, CMBM is also implementing this program in Israel, where it is currently being integrated into trauma centers, mental health clinics, hospitals and schools, including the Israeli settlements in Gaza.

"As Israelis and Palestinians search for ways to work collaboratively -- to end the destruction and to heal the psychological trauma that has devastated their communities -- the Healing the Wounds of War program is designed to play an important role in reconciliation and healing, helping to bring the cycle of victimization and revenge to an end," said Dr. Gordon. "What our work promotes -- as we've seen in Kosovo, Bosnia, Macedonia and Israel -- is self awareness where there's been ignorance; sensitivity to differences where there's been crude stereotyping; compassion, where there's been intolerance; and healing and hope, where there has been pain and despair."

The HWW program began in Kosovo in 1998 and is now being implemented by leading psychiatrists and psychologists throughout the region where it is a central component in the entire community mental health system. A study on the effects of this program with adolescents in post-war Kosovo showed remarkable results. Published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress in April 2004, symptoms of PTSD were shown to be significantly reduced from 88% to 38% in just six weeks. Dr. Gordon received an award this month from the government of Kosovo for his exceptional work, acknowledging his great contribution to the development of health services in Kosovo.

The Center for Mind Body Medicine's mission is to bring self awareness and self care into the center of medicine and combine the precision of modern scientific medical care with the wisdom of the great healing traditions. CMBM, which has worked extensively with the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the faculty of many American medical schools, is creating a more compassionate, open-minded and effective model of health care and health education.

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