Addressing collective trauma: conceptualisations and interventions

Complex situations following war and natural disasters have a psychosocial impact not only on the individual, but also their family, community and the larger society. Fundamental changes in the functioning of the family and community can be observed as a result of these impacts. At the family level, the dynamics of single parent families, lack of trust among members, changes in significant relationships and child rearing practices are seen. Communities tend to be more dependent, passive, silent, without leadership, mistrustful and suspicious. Additional adverse effects include the breakdown of traditional structures, institutions and familiar ways of life, and deterioration in social norms, ethics and loss of social capital. Collective trauma can be studied using sophisticated multilevel statistical analysis, with social capital as a marker. A variety of community level interventions have been tried, though a scientifically robust evidence base for their effectiveness has yet to be established. This article advocates that post disaster relief, rehabilitation and development programmes need to address the problem of collective trauma, particularly using integrated holistic approaches.

Somasundaram, Daya