Post Traumatic Survival: The Lessons of Cambodian Resilience
Some refugees who survive wars recover and thrive; others do not. This study sets out to discover what successful survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime found instrumental for both their survival and their mental health. The aim is to contribute to the understanding of resilience, here understood as the ability to recover from misfortune or change, in order to contribute to the psychosocial rehabilitation of survivors of war crimes and other traumatic events – to discover how war-refugees may be best assisted in processes of recovery and normalisation.
The resilience found here was based largely on informants’ cultural and religious resources. Psychosocial guidelines for accessing clients’ backgrounds are available, but health and social workers often fail to access the cultural explanatory models used by survivors in building personal and group resilience. Proposals from the project are incorporated in a cultural resilience interview scheme for the use of health and social workers wishing to conduct resilience work with war survivors.
Gwynyth Overland is Senior Advisor and Clinical Sociologist at the Regional Trauma Centre (RVTS Sør) and the Clinic for Psychosomatics and Trauma (PST) at Sorlandet Hospital in Southern Norway. Dr Overland was born in the USA, began her education at Vassar, moved to Europe after a junior year abroad, and married and settled in Norway, where she took degrees in sociology at the Universities of Oslo and Agder. Her doctoral work was a study of remarkably resilient survivors of the Khmer Rouge period, an interdisciplinary project in the sociology of religion and mental health. She edited Sociology at the Frontiers of Psychology (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2006), and has published articles in English and Norwegian on refugees’ untapped resilience, their experience of psychiatric treatment and the transnational flows between resettled refugees and the homeland.
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