Building Individual and Community Resilience through Global Health Literacy: Responding to the Trauma, Somatic and Mental Health Needs of Incarcerated Genocide Perpetrators in Rwanda

Friday, 20 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Kevin BARNES-CEENEY, University of New Haven, USA
Laurie LEITCH, Threshold GlobalWorks, USA
Lior GIDEON, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, USA
In today’s rapidly changing world with global conflicts, climate change crises, immigration challenges, and economic inequities individuals live with a near-constant presence of stress, distress, and trauma. A cascade of physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual symptoms arises from each of these crises, straining the capacity of heath care organizations to respond to all who are in need.

Drawing upon our research with incarcerated genocide perpetrators in Rwanda, this paper introduces a global health literacy approach, called the Social Resilience Model (SRM). The model equips trauma survivors with leading-edge neuroscience information about ways the mind-body system is wired to respond to threat and fear, and how people can harness the brain’s capacity to change itself for the better using neuroplasticity. Accompanying the “neuroeducation” is a practical set of self-regulation skills which can be easily used for self-care and care of others.

Our paper will first describe incarcerated génocidaires’ experiences of somatic symptoms, posttraumatic stress, mental health difficulties, attitudes towards unity and reconciliation, and hopes and fears for the future. We found strong associations between trauma experiences, somatic symptoms anxiety and depression. In addition, hostility was strongly correlated with somatic symptoms, anxiety, and depression. Through interviews we learned that reconnection with children, rebuilding destroyed homes, and resolving land disputes were the immediate post-release challenges to be overcome.

In our paper we will then present SRM’s core neuroscience concepts, provide an overview of the self-regulation skills, and describe the ways the model builds individual and community level resilience in Rwanda, and promotes positive physical and emotional health outcomes. In addition to post-genocide Rwanda SRM has also been used globally after large-scale catastrophic events such as the Thailand Tsunami, hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the U.S., and the earthquakes in Sichuan Province, Haiti, and Nepal.