Counseling for War Victims
Psychiatrist Dr. Kos (left) with an Afghan female counselor, Aziza Eshani Each year in Afghanistan thousands of civilians are killed or injured. Many more suffer psychological trauma. Civilians have to come to terms with losing loved ones who are killed in incidents such as suicide attacks, roadside bombs, airstrikes, and fighting between insurgents and US and coalition forces.
The Afghan Civilian Assistance Program, which has been providing training opportunities and material support for war victims since 2007, will provide psychological counseling to those most in need. A highly experienced professional psychiatrist, who has worked in other conflict zones including the Balkans, Chechnya, and Iraq, trained 25 specially selected Afghans who will provide counseling services to families. Each family will have up to 14 sessions over a six month period as part of a package of help.
Dr. Anica Mikus Kos says the counseling will provide critical support to families. “In my experience, lay people trained in mental health can make a real difference to families who have suffered losses and can sometimes be more effective than professionals,” adding that “they bring human understanding and sympathy, energy, hope, as well as knowledge and practical advice.”
Ten of those trained were women who will provide counseling to other women. Aziza Eshani said, “People’s mental health is often forgotten but we are here to offer comfort and hope. If we can make women healthy then we can make families healthy, villages healthy, and the country healthy. If we can revive hope in people then they will not lose their hearts. We can help to stop people wanting revenge and becoming terrorists.”
Religious leader Haji Rahmat Shah, who will be one of the counselors, praised the initiative. The mullah said, “As Muslims we have a responsibility to follow the example of our Holy Prophet and help sick people. This counseling is in accordance with Islam and it will be very effective to help people overcome their trauma.”
The Afghan Civilian Assistance Program is funded by USAID Afghanistan and implemented by IRD.