- Is there a difference between 'security' and 'well-being'? Is one more of a priority than the other?
- What does 'well-being' mean in the context of HRD (human rights defender) security?
Share your thoughts, ideas and stories to this discussion thread by adding your comments below, or responding to existing comments.
Human security has been traditionally defined, in international relations, as the combination of threats associated with war, genocide, and the displacement of populations. However, the attention of the international community towards the need for a broader definition of the term was precipitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)1994 Human Development Report (HDR) which proposed a broader definition of human security to encompass everything in that spectrum of freedom from want to freedom from fear including freedom from violence and from the fear of violence. It draws from the pioneering work on human capabilities and human "functionings" of Nobel laureate and economist Amartya Sen which basically espouses the need to go beyond the framework of basic needs to include social, political and cultural elements and that any framework on human security should be rights-based instead of market-based. In keeping with the focus on human capabilities as opposed to just basic needs, it also emphasizes that for human security to become a reality, the twin pillars of protection and empowerment must be used interactively.
There is a consensus from across various perspectives and proponents of a broader definition of 'human security' to focus on individuals; however there remains a debate as to which threats to the individuals should be addressed as human security issues.
Supporters of the narrow definition of human security argue for a focus on violent threats to individuals and communities.
Supporters of the broad definition outlined in the 1994 HDR argue that hunger, disease, pollution, affronts to human dignity, threats to livelihoods, and other harms in addition to violence should all be considered human security issues.
Feminist critique of the 1994 HDR however noted the absence of reference to gender-based violence in all human security discourses including the 1994 HDR and the failure of the latter to address VAW as a developoment issue. Evolving feminist perspective on human security emphasized the links between gender justice and human security and for gender justice to be made integral and central to any framework on human security. The recognition of women's rights as human rights is central to the feminist understanding of security. It looks at the sources of insecurity and extends the general arguments about the nature of society to the realm of security and argues that comprehensive security can only be achieved if the relations of domination and submission in all walks of life are eliminated. Social justice in the form of economic development, human rights protection, military peace and ecological sustainability all depend upon the achievement of gender justice. The other contribution by feminists' discourse on human security is the notion of 'collective security" which involves a reevaluation of the notion of power. Interdependence, mutual enablement, and empathy are given preference over autonomy, self-help, individualism and competition. A redefinition of power would change the nature of politics globally and locally and would manifest itself in a relational, collaborative, non-oppositional approach to human security where the survival of one depends on the well-being of the other.
Linking 'well-being' to 'human security' therefore presupposes the need for a broader definition of 'human security' and for comprehensive and integrated strategies to address this along the lines of the 1994 HDR and the feminist perspectives and agenda on human security.
Many people immediately correlate two terms of well-being and security. However, it is not always the same. Well-being is more about the condition of soul, while security is physical condition. Last year, when 'ethnic' conflict happened, many HRDs started to feel that they are doing real job and helping to victims. Regardless of being in insecurity during that time, many HRDs flew to the south of Kyrgyzstan.
Or otherwise, people might leave in a stable country and be in security. However, it doesn't mean that all are happy or being/feeling well with that stability and security. Very often, HRDs from the West come to unstable countries in order to contribute there, to promote HR and democracy and stimulate openness in society. It is kind of adventure for many journalists, HRDs to go to unstable and insecure countries with emerging democracies.
Hugs from Kyrgyzstan
Quoting from the Claiming Rights, Claiming Justice: A Guidebook on Women Human Rights Defenders (PDF)
"Well-being. The current male-centred conceptualisation of human rights does not include the concept of well-being. Accountability for violations and abuses of human rights has been largely defined in terms of those that are inflicted upon victims. No state obligation has been explicitly formulated to address incidents of chronic stress, exposure to trauma or burn-out, or issues around self-esteem or non-recognition, which are abuses that do not necessarily involve a perpetrator and a victim. Even the recent UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders only refers to violations, and does not look into measures that would ensure the well-being of activists."
Paragraph 89 of the Beijing Platform for Action provides the closest articulation of well-being as a component of the human right to health. It states: "Women have the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. The enjoyment of this right is vital to their life and well-being and their ability to participate in all areas of public and private life. Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Women’s health involves their emotional, social and physical well-being and is determined by the social and political context of their lives, as well as by biology…. Asserting that the attainment of ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being’ is a human right would go a long way in the protection of women human rights defenders. It would oblige the public and private sectors to develop programmes, activities, and allocate resources that respond not only to human rights violations, but proactively ensure a secure and dignified life for activists."
Thanks Edna for tracing the evolution of the concept of security and the recent trend to broaden it from its militaristic origins to include a feminist perspective that takes into consideration the concept of "well-being" as integral to security.
Following from Edna's presentation of a feminist perspective on this concept -
Relegated as nurturers and caretakers in the sexual division of labour, women have been socialised to be the caretakers of others and prioritise the needs of others at the expense of their own. The patriarchal system demands that women neglect themselves, or they are called "selfish" or “self-centered”. Women human rights defenders have internalised these stereotypes so in this process of fulfilling the double burden of balancing their responsibilities in the so-called private or domestic sphere and their public role as defenders, they have postponed or taken their own needs for granted, perpetuating a cycle of self-neglect.
Broadly understood to mean self-care, well-being in this context of women’s self-exploitation is not only about taking care of one’s self. Well-being is a choice of a way of life that connotes an assertion of a feminist ethics of care that counters the gendered socialisation of women, which have perpetuated self-neglect and have led to illnesses, disorders and burn-out.
Well-being is also a critical component of the capacity of women human rights defenders to counter risk. Their state of unwellness directly affects their personal or internal capacities or increases their vulnerability to risk. It is therefore important for women human rights defenders to take care of themselves and begin a process of looking after their well being as an integral component of ensuring their security.
Capacities of individual defenders are also linked to the sustainability of their organisations and movements. In discussions with members of the philanthropic community, donors have boldly suggested several strategies to translate well-being for activists into institutional practices to sustain organisations. Acknowledging the discrepancies between their working conditions and those of their grantees, the donors acquiesce that improving conditions of work in the non-profit sector such as instituting health care or pension benefits for activists; incorporating rest and respite for staff; providing access to psycho-social support services; allocating resources for capacity building and professional development are critical to sustain both staff and organisations.
Thank you to Edna and Mary Jane for kicking off this question around well-being. I really appreciate Edna's grounding of well-being in its historical roots and firmly in a rights-based framework. Mary Jane's follow-on comment helps us understand the structural reasons of why women human rights defenders have traditionally side-lined concerns for well-being. But as the feminist ethics of care has developed over time, there is a real shift in how women human rights defenders (and as Mary Jane points out) donors, are seeing the integration of wellness as a key component of human rights defenders security:
So, in essence, well-being needs to be understood in the context of the rights and ethics of human rights defense (i.e, it is not a 'nice to have' or a 'luxury', it is a must have).
My question to the group as a follow-on -- if much of the work on well-being and self-care is rooted in a feminist analysis (building on the human security framework)... how do we explain and assess the challenges that male human rights defenders face in their work?
From my experiences of working with mixed gender groups, male human rights defenders are similarly reluctant to talk about the 'personal' and well-being aspects of the work, but they are similarly struggling with challenges of stress, illness, concern for their families and trauma.
What are our experiences around this? Are men less willing to integrate wellness into their thinking about security than women human rights defenders? If yes, why?
(please note that I'd also love to have a deeper discussion about security and well-being for defenders of varying gender expressions and identities, my apologies for staying in the binary gender construct at the moment)
This my first time looking at/taking part in these discussions, so I hope that my comments make sense and contribute to furthering the collective thoughts on this important issue.
I agree whole-heartedly with the above comment of connecting "well-being" to rights; and it seems to me that if/when we do that we should realize that its not just about gender differences (in terms of how men and women think about security differently). Perhaps one way of thinking about it is this: security standards and procedures are in response to the immediate or imminent threat, whereas well-being "rights, standards and procedures" are longer term/bigger picture.I think it would be worth exploring in more detail what some of those rights, standards and procedures are. As I think about well-being of human rights defenders, I think the conversation needs to go beyond gender and to look more holistically at those within each community who are most vulnerable.
Those who are vulnerable in their communities (indigenous, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ) often are invisible or are pushed to the margins by activists in the mainstream human rights institutions/organizations, including some of those who are active in promoting women's rights and gender equity.
Awhile back I attended a conference on rights of women with disabilities in a country (which will be anonymous for the purpose of this discussion). It was being sponsored by one of the largest women's rights groups in the country - most if not all women members of the group were/are lawyers. They had a conference co-sponsor which was an organization in the west looking particualrly at women with disabilities. The organization I work for is a grantmaker - and I attended with several of our grantees - since one of the grantees was a locally based organization of women with disabilities. Because i knew the western organization that had co-sponsored the conference, I was invited to a gathering of the leaders from the women's rights groups. I brought along two representatives of the locally based group because I wanted to facilitate introductions for them. There were many barriers though: (1) the private gathering was inaccessible; (2) although I was welcomed, the women who accompanied me were ignored - amazingly the "mainstream" women who were physically closest to my colleagues turned their backs to my colleagues; (3) the representatives from the mainstream group insisted on speaking in English (although I had an interpreter), which excluded the women with disabilities who were my organization's grantees.
The irony didn't seem to be noticed. Here was a conference on rights of women with disabilities led by "mainstream women" which ignored and marginalized the very women for whom the conference was being held.
This is only one example, of course. While the above discrimination was obvious,there are countless more subtle ways in which human rights activists (in all arenas) are startlingly myopic about discrimination (and violations) that fall outside their particular area of focus. Though, of course, women with disabilities are first and foremost women, so ANY human rights organization that professes to be concerned about advancing women's rights needs to take into account the 15% of THEIR population that are women with disabilities. Otherwise, disccrimination and violations are perpetuated.
If it appears that i have minimized the earlier points about gender differences in how men and women conceptualize frameworks of security and well-being, please know that is not at all my intent. I merely mean to point out that there are additional layers that warrant, I believe, our deeper consideration.
Thank you to Michael for raising 2 key issues around security and well-being.
The first asks us to expand from a gender perspective to an 'intersectional perspective', where we recognize, as you say, the deeper layers of who is threatened (and what strategies can be used in response), and why.
There is so much that human rights defenders around the world have in common.
And equally, there are many different risks/threats/challenges that arise specifically based on both context (where you are located, what is happening around you) and who you are, who you love, how you express yourself (among many other forms of identity).
The next, related point, is how we all either silence or support the work of other human rights defenders. We rarely have an opportunity to talk honestly about the way that discrimination within human rights communities perpetuates violence -- and is in and of itself, a serious security threat.
If solidarity is one of the single most important security strategies human rights defenders have (and from my experience, it is always listed as a key strategy), then lack of support/recognition for each other is a huge challenge.
So, how do we build solidarity within and across movements? We ask the question all the time, but not often within the security and well-being frameworks.
It would be great to hear some good examples around this.
(On a final note, the reasons we started the dialogue questions with a gender perspective, rather than an intersectional perspective, are two-fold. The first is in recognition of the history of integrated security, which developed, as Edna and Mary Jane noted, from a gendered and feminist perspective. The second is that a gender perspective is one window (of many) to look at the human beings and human realities of human rights defenders -- using one perspective on discrimination and marginalization doesn't preclude using any other.
In fact, as we'd hoped, it encourages us to go further, and as you say, deeper, in our analysis.)
I wanted to share an observation I have had from my work with human rights defenders regarding challenges of stress...illness...concern for families...trauma, etc. And I wanted to highlight what Jane wrote here:
Challenges that I've experienced both in myself and in working with human rights defenders is the general EXPECTATION to be "tough" and the burden that this adds personally, in our families, to our organizations and societies. The "tough" I am referring to has been shared with me that clearly holds perhaps not only the expectation, but the DEMAND from self and/or organization and sometimes reinforced by family (or resented by family):
A difference I've witnessed between "genders" may be in how this "toughness" is talked about. I've experienced men referring to arrests, imprisonments, beatings, torture as a "badge of honor" but I don't think I have ever heard a woman refer to these kinds of experiences in this way.
I do think, however, that the neglect or denial of our own personal right to well-being and security has roots in these unrealistic and unsustainable expectations on our physical, emotional and spiritual self.
Great points, Nancy.
Aside from the gender binary, there seems also to be a group feature that can emerge and supply a space in which awareness of, discussion about, and strategic planning around self-care is encouraged. Interestingly, during demonstrators' 18 day presence in Tahrir, team-centered self-care was used to promote a distribution of the stressors on individuals. People were supported in their decisions to go home to take a shower every three days and check-in with their families; and there was no blame or shame directed at people as they came in and out of the square throught the two and a half weeks. People attended to their needs and trusted the group to fill the gap during their breaks.
I think this spreading out of exposure holds an important lesson for other activists in other contexts. Rather than look at actions as a me-against-the-world project, collaboration in strategy, risk, and self-care is key to building sustainable movements.
Alix Dunn, Researcher @ the engine room www.engineroom.no
Thank you so much for sharing this great example of how a system of support can be set up that fosters both a movement for change (people keeping up the large, group pressure) AND the needs of life maintenance. Do you know if this system of support was PLANNED or if it emerged organically? Organically, in the sense that people just started to come and go to take care of self hygiene but also family obligations / considerations.
This would be a really terrific process to share more in depth - especially in the case of being a very conscious, organized process of support.
The personal support system largely developed organically, but there was tremendous effort to provide medical services and resources for protestors. While the coordination was largely impromptu and reflexive, it constituted a complex system of real-time needs assessments and matching resources with people. Using tools and a bit of planning to cross networks that had never been merged before was a great tool for providing and seeking support. Think of a Twitter user with a large network in digital media circles helping to meet needs as they are announced online by calling his/her cousin who is a doctor to help determine the best place to set up a field hospital. Or talking to a friend who isn't sleeping in the square that would be happy to bring food and blankets to demonstrators camping out. The hard part of this kind of connection, aside from the time resources, is rekeying thinking and asking for help. For those that have network minds -- ah, I meet you and realize that you should meet another contact x -- it is a quick transition. For those that are more stationary in their networks it can be harder to see how many resources are really at hand. While it is hard to replicate the elegant and moving emotional support exchanged between activists that stayed out in the square, weathered the cold, and occasionally the rock-slinging, planning collaborative network mobilization was a great tool that can be used in any context.
Alix Dunn, Researcher @ the engine room www.engineroom.no
Thanks for sharing this tactic from Tahrir Square, Alix! It is incredibly helpful to hear these kinds of examples. This organic network of support that develop at Tahrir reminds me of the support network that was developed by Otpor! in Serbia in 2000. The tactic is basically that when activists were arrested by the police, a network of supporters were engaged to attract attention to the activists in custody and also provide support for the detained activists and their families. You can find much more information about this tactic in our Tactical Notebook called Plan B: Using Secondary Protests to Undermine Repression.
Though the notebook doesn't go into great detail about how this tactic was originally created, I imagine that it was a group of activists sharing their stories from being detained that realized how helpful these stories could be to other activists. This group realized the potential to actually use these situations to their advantage by: a) making the government look bad, and b) creating a more supportive and secure movement for their members. Here is a quote from the notebook, explaining how the activists felt when they came out of detention:
This example may seem more strategic and thought out than the organic network of support that Alix describes above, but perhaps the only difference is that one is documented? I am sure that there are many examples of networks being formed to make sure that activists are safe - but also networks that support each other and the families of activists. I big part of this tactic was controlling the fear and building the morale of the movement's members:
Perhaps it is the support that we can provide to each other that will lead our campaigns to success! Can you imagine anything more frustrating to an opponent than to see a strong supportive network of clever, strategic activists? The notebook points out: "When facing violence and repression you must prove that you are an organization that cares for its own members. Serbia learned a big lesson from our activities — the lesson of solidarity."
Please share other examples of how networks support each other!
Thank you All for starting the debate and bringing in the complexity of the topic. Your comments made me think of the ethics of care, the Women in black, the individual and organisational levels, the social conditioning on male and female behaviour as if that was ineluctable beyond the intensity of the impact on the well-being and thus on security etc.
The difficulty of coherence between claiming for human rights (of which well-being is an element) and practice them.
With all yours comments in my mind, I’d like to say that relationship between well-being and security exists simply because well-being is part of security. It's a question of security, and vice-versa. the context will modulate the priority given to one or the other elements of security.
For the sake of this moment in the dialogue, I speak of well-being from the psychological perspective. Inner well-being. (I am however aware that well-being includes also access to satisfaction of basic other needs)
HRD face so many different expressions of political aggression…attacks on their well-being is one expression also and it has an impact on their security.
At times, one can take time and dwell on decoding the attack, the impact and work through steps to be able to co-exist with it. Co-existence is not passivity.
HRD know that their well-being is also a possible entry-point for the potential aggressor.
Other times, there is ‘no time’ to do so and one needs to deal with other variables of security.
Now, how can an individual/organisation integrate attention and work on well-being because it is part of security?
In mixed organisations men (but not exclusively) are most likely to deny the need for it as there is plenty of other emergencies or simply excuses not to put the finger on what might contribute to take the lid off and weaken the 'well-being'…yet, if well-being is brought up from the perspective of security, then the denial attitude changes.
Marie Caraj mentions:
I know I'm entering the country of vast generalizations, but in a nutshell, the reasons why men are more likely deny, ignore or not prioritize work on well-being is simply because generally we (men) are told and taught that we need to be strong and - wear the adversity (in whatever form), as a previous poster had mentioned, as a "badge of honor."
The roles that men (and women) are assigned (by mainstream society) reinforce the systems/structure and values that are held, either consciously or unconsciously, by those who have the power. When one has real power/wealth, one mimics the ways of the powerful. To the extent that I know many women-led organizations that are as closed (to others) and as discrimatory as those led by men (my previous post about the women's lawyers organization provides but one example).
The myths that are told about our country: manifest destiny, the self-made-man, etc. are believed or are used (if you are really cynical) by those in power to maintain their power (since those myths justify their wealth and position).
A digression: one disheartening trend in the US has been the growing income disparity, which threatens the ability of HRD to carry out work abroad and at home.
So new structures/models, value systems (which include greater attention to well-being - I'm trying to bring this back to the topic) need to be seen as viable alternatives (but of course mainstream society ignores and/or belittles those alternatives).
This is a very informative conceptual discussion from which I'm taking a lot -thank you.
Another point of reference that may be of use that I'm sure many are familiar with is the work of specialists in psychosocial trauma healing with HRDs, such as Spanish psychologist Carlos Martín Beristain, whose established approach to integrating well-being and security has been applied practically in workshops with (for example, Colombian women HRDs) seeking to reinforce or rebuild the social fabric that binds HRDs to their families, communities, and to one another –the critical solidarity point raised by Jane earlier.
But this is one amongst many and it strikes me that during the course of the next week it would be hugely useful if we could start mapping where and how practitioners working with HRDs and HRDs themselves have applied these concepts in their work, and the resources that exist to support their application in practice. I'm conscious that there's a body of literature out there scattered across different INGO websites and publications -including some produced by moderators on this discussion (e.g. Jane's publication for Front Line: Insiste, Resiste, Persiste, Existe) and there are some great examples of approaches taken by Women in Black in Serbia, the Organizacion Femenina Popular in Colombia and so on to draw from as we continue to look at how to ground these concepts in practice in the daily lives and work of HRDs (and women HRDs most especially).
I wonder if one outcome from this might be a commitment from someone to take on a literature review that could draw together the relevant references on well-being and security?
Glad you have joined this conversation, James!
Yes - it would be great if we could map out where and how practitioners are applying these concepts of well-being, security and integrated security in their work! You may want to start by taking a look at our past dialogues on these topics, where we explored these concepts separately:
Let's start the mapping!
Here is a website of the Grupo de Accion Comunitari- GAC- that is made of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, doctors,
www.psicosocial.net You can also simply type Grupo de accion comunitaria.
GAC helds online courses in English and Spanish. Many HRD around the world have taken them. Carlos Berinstein is part of GAC. GAC is basically a network of dedicated people and practitioners from several countries and continents.
Capacitar International has been working with HRD in many countries. The work might not be framed/called as Integrated Security, often it's called as"Multi-Cultural Wellness". If you look at Capacitar's website - bootom right www.capacitar.org you can see world map where Capacitar has done work, ie: South Africa, Ireland, East Timor, Middle East etc
Hi James - you may want to look at this list of Recommended readings on the protection & security of HRDs.
I just read this powerful piece in The Guardian, an excerpt from a book by war reporter Janine di Giovanni and wanted to share. She describes how she lived and worked through traumatic situations, witnessed death, experienced very real risks to her life, and how she was unaffected until she left that work to live a safer life.
Talking with HRDs, it seems that ptsd is common -- do you know of any good resources for helping hrds address ptsd and supporting them in the longterm, after they have stopped working in high risk situations?
Becky Hurwitz, SaferMobile Project, MobileActive.org
Thanks for bringing up the issue of PTSD and longer term support for human rights defenders.
I have also felt that in working with human rights defenders, there are many instances where it seems as though some are suffering from PTSD in varying stages. I say this with three important caveats.
First, I am not a trained psychologist, so can only use what I've learned from others and from work that I've read on trauma, burnout and compassion fatigue for caregivers.
Second, I've yet to see any research on these issues that are specific to the lives and realities of human rights defenders, which I think is very specific -- both in how mental health challenges manifest, and critically -- how defenders cope, survive and thrive in the face of traumatic events. Because there is something special, and unexplored, around their resilience, and the reasons that they choose the path of human rights defense in the first place -- and the role that the work itself plays in mitigating trauma (I hope that makes sense to you).
Third, while I think that there is a lot to be learned in the western concept of trauma, and PTSD, I feel that it is only one of many ways to understand the effects of witnessing, violence, discrimination, etc. and to find appropriate ways of healing. For some, the treatment for PTSD may involve talk therapy and/or medication. This is one route, but there are many other ways that can and should be explored (including working with spiritual beliefs -- some defenders may prefer to have time with a shaman they trust or a spiritual leader, or facilitating time in nature, for others it might be engaging in sports -- there are so many options and no real set answers).
With those caveats, my thoughts on what's available, at least from my experience so far:
I don't know of any one organization that works specifically on PTSD/trauma for defenders.
Marie’s comment mentioning the website of the Grupo de Accion Comunitari- GAC- that is made of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, doctors, , is very interesting though, and I’d love to know more if they provide ongoing support. Also, I think that Headington Institute seems to do counseling and also offers online training around some key issues (this is for humanitarian aid workers, which does have some useful crossover with human rights defenders).
In some cases I’ve worked with, we’ve helped defenders find support locally (a local psychologist and/or doctor if needed). In other cases, we’ve helped them find respite out of country.
Some defenders have had great experiences with respite options provided by Frontline’s fellowship program http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/front-line-fellowship, the Hamburg Foundation for Protection of Persecuted People http://www.hamburger-stiftung.de/e_index.html and also in working with Freedimensional and the International Women’s Partnership for Peace and Justice (mentioned in other posts).
Other defenders have been able to find support in a more ad-hoc way, staying with friends or in respite care organized in other countries by colleagues.
One of the great things that happens when we share information in the dialogue is that we are also able to build on the connections we are forming here to help support defenders.
After the last New Tactics dialogue, I was able to connect with one practitioner who connected me with a neuro-psychologist who was able to provide a telephone consult for a defender in crisis (and able to confirm that the defender was suffering from PTSD). This was very helpful for the defender, who was able to better understand what was happening to her and make choices about her own care.
These are some thoughts, but I would love to hear from other participants on their answers to Becky’s question!
GAC is a network of practitioners and among the many HRD who have attended their online courses, there are also organisations working on Psychosocial process in their countries, so follow up is provided. The origin is mostly 'spanish/latin america'.
One approach to coping with PTSD is meditation. The David Lynch foundation has a specific programme called 'Warrior Wellness' offering Transcendental Meditation to soldiers. While military warriors is not our focus here (!), HRDs clearly can be exposed to similar issues and this would make sense for it to be part of the toolkit. One of the benefits are that once learnt it is a daily practice that can be a big help in preventing the build up of stress that can be practiced anywhere.
best resource regarding PTSD i know is a series of books and video "Power Over Panic" by Bronwyn Fox. they are very practical and goal oriented. i know of this from direct experience of minding a close friend who had severe case of PTSD. the author of the books herself "had panic disorder for five years and she was housebound for over 2 years. she recovered using meditation and mindfulness as a cognitive technique. she has extensive experience working with people with an anxiety disorder and has been counselling for over twenty years."
this material offer possibilities of self learning and treatment. i can easily imagine the workshop based on this. of course, i know that this treatment may not address 100% cases but from my experience and understanding of this method i think it would address majority.
Thank you to Michael and Wojtech for suggesting meditation and mindfulness techniques to address PTSD (as well as anxiety, general trauma and many other challenges).
These techniques are so helpful in the context of human rights defenders work. They are easy to teach and learn, they are portable and can be used at any time, and they offer defenders a way to actively support and heal themselves. I have read about the use of MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) in hospitals in the US, and it sounds like this is producing great results.
In my work with compassion fatigue and caregivers, I have found that humans beings all require 3 basic things:1) to love and be loved, 2) to be valued, and 3) to feel secure. If, indeed, a human being is fortunate to have all 3 elements in his or her life, the outcome is a feeling of well-being. In the United States, I believe many of our citizens did experience a feeling of well-being. but 9/11 changed that for all of us. I haven't met anyone whose security wasn't badly shaken after the Twin Towers fell. Sadly, many of our global neighbors have lived with a lack of security all of their lives due to war, famine and disease that affects their population generation after generation. For those of us who dream of peace and eradication of poverty, the situation seems very bleak.
Thanks for joining us Patricia!
I think the work on compassion fatigue (and compassion satisfaction) is fascinating and an important part of our discussions, would love to hear some of your thoughts on available support for defenders dealing with trauma (Becky's previous question).
Hi Jane, thanks for asking.
The correlation between compassion fatigue and defenders can't be ignored. When we bear witness to the pain and suffering of others, it not only puts us at risk for secondary trauma known as compassion fatigue, but also changes who we are. This is especially true with first responders who serve those who have survived the horrors of war, rape, torture and other human rights violation atrocities. Awareness of compassion fatigue, its symptoms, causes and "cure," is the best defense against acquiring the symptoms which can debilatate the life of a caregiver. Symptoms include isolation, apathy, substance abuse, impulse to rescue everyone, and recurring nightmares, among others. Causes include lack of personal boundaries, hyper-sense of responsibility, putting the needs of others before our own needs, and unresolved past trauma and pain. Many responders/caregivers who are at-risk for compassion fatigue became caregivers at a very young age and haven't learned the skills required to provide healthy, compassionate care to others. As I mentioned, awareness of compassion fatigue is the first line of defense. In order to be "present" to others, caregivers must practice authentic, sustainable self-care daily. This includes good nutrition, restful sleep, exercise, and healthy relationships. We "empty out" every time we provide care to others. It is imperative that we "fill up" every day in order to go back out and do the work we choose to do. What "fills" you up? A walk in nature? Playing ball with Fido, man's best friend? Enjoying a good meal with best friends? Kissing and hugging your loved ones? Whatever it is, embrace it and allow the practice to fill you up - body, mind and spirit.
I would like to try to contribute at more length to a discussion about Becky's question and need time to devote to it. In meantime, I want to post something brief, sooner.
I think there is a dearth of resources for treating HRDs for actual trauma, or any kind of accute reaction to direct targeting, or to protect them from targeting and sources of trauma at all except in the most unambiquous contexts.
There are more resources for managing secondary "compassion fatigue" and for those in the example provided -- the Guardian article featuring the journalists affected by war coverage. It is not for no reason that an article in the Guardian featured that sort of occupational trauma when the vast majority of journalists killed, and traumatized by prolonged targeting, are beat reporters targeted in retaliation for ongoing work, not reporters in a war zone or on the scene of earthquakes and other relatively morally unambigous events.
Those targeted for their work -- by far the largest group of killed and endangered journalists according to the Committee to Protect Journalists -- find themselves in much more complicated circumstances. They are often marginalized, and their voices muted because of various mechanisms of prejudice and fear that corrupt a strong and moral response to it.
In the profession of journalism where recognizing trauma at all is a recent feat, the profession has begrudgingly acknowledged, and now practically deifies those traumatized by their involvment with war and disaster coverage. It has hardly at all begin to address those targeted for engaging in the process of seeking and publicizing truth and indeed, the targeting of the process itself of seeking truth. Let's face it, that's what it is. It is so uncomfortable in the profession that only overseas reporters facing oppression for their work easily receive recognition as legitimate.
Psychological studies of trauma in journalists is very recent only and focused on journalists exposed to war and disasters. So far as I know -- and I try to keep up with it -- there have been none so far dealing with the other, more prominent source of occupational stress and trauma among journalists. Judging only by my contact with those I know who have been involved in initiating studies, there is resistance to looking at this source of trauma. I can only hope this is not universal.
Welcome to the conversation and thanks for your thoughts. I think unfortunately, you are right that there aren't enough resources to treat HRD trauma, particularly longterm trauma and in 'ambiguous' contexts. One of the emerging hopes of the current dialogue, though, might be that we could at least create a network/space where those practitioners who do work on security and well-being (including trauma) would be able to continue to talk to each other, network and offer services more broadly.
There is also a lot to learn, and a dearth of research, on how human rights defenders (including journalists) both experience and cope with trauma.
But I do wonder if you, or any other participants, have any experience with the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma? Perhaps they have experience that would be helpful in these conversations. Also, I know that the Committee to Protect Journalists has released a recent report on sexual violence against journalists, which is a helpful addition at least, to opening up more conversations. Also, having worked on some referrals with both Reporters without Borders and Rory Peck Trust, I know that these are issues that are at least important to them.
I know that this doesn't answer the larger question of long term trauma among journalists, and in particular (and thank you for raising this), it doesn't help the 'deifying' that happens when some hrds experience extreme violence/trauma, which unfortunately does continue to minimise the longer term, daily challenges that human rights defenders face regardless of location or context.
But hopefully, a positive start to seeing who is out there.