Mental Recovery and Social Integration
The Equator approach simultaneously addresses mental recovery and social integration. This double target is based on the assumption that violence in war or systematic oppression affect both the psychological and the social self. In other words, it can lead both to a disturbance of the psychological balance and the loss of social identity.
Experiencing or witnessing atrocities and violence during war or systematic oppression can produce extreme emotional reactions. These can vary from anxiety, feelings of powerlessness, disgust and anger through to shame and guilt. These feelings can be so intense and unmanageable as to be overwhelming. In this case it becomes impossible to give these experiences a place in the memory and leave them behind. They continue, as it were, to live a life of their own, disturbing one's balance, just like a wound which remains open. These kinds of experiences are considered to be 'traumatic'.
War or oppression can also give rise to situations which are not considered as traumatic, but which are nonetheless extremely stressful, for example loss and grief, great insecurity or poor living conditions.
Traumatic experiences or very stressful conditions can cause long term disturbances for cognitive and affective functioning and behaviour. In other words, through experiences like these, problems can manifest themselves on all levels of psychological functioning, from the ability to process information through to managing one's emotions and conduct. In such cases psychiatric problems can arise.
People need their social context for their self-esteem and to make sense of their lives, for example through enjoying love, friendship or family relations. This can also be formed through a strong professional identity or a respected social position within a narrow or broader social circle. These kinds of connections and social roles give life its meaning.
In a war context, society falls to pieces; there is loss and grief and these important connections and definitions are lost. Special skills are no longer relevant or needed, perhaps the workplace no longer exists, or it is too dangerous to go there. The social circle is gone and venues for social and professional activities have been destroyed. The means by which people used to be valued are gone. In the move to another, foreign country, people loose yet more of their own familiar landscape - their own language, their cuisine, their social norms and manners - nothing is the same.
This loss of social significance undermines a sense of identity, the familiarity which connects people to their lives and their sense of trust. This is not easily expressed in terms of diagnosis or symptoms. Nevertheless, it has a negative effect on wellbeing and on functioning.
Both of these factors, psychological balance and social significance, are of extreme importance to wellbeing, are inextricably linked, and therefore receive equal attention in the help which Equator offers.