War touches everyone in its path. In a war zone horrors are witnessed on a daily basis by children and adults alike. Without tools to help them heal, these individuals continue to carry emotional and mental wounds from war-related trauma, often leading to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The adverse effects of PTSD easily spill into everyday life—whether emotionally, physically, or psychologically.
In 2014, Dr. Sarah, our Justice Rising psychologist, came and trained our team in a method of addressing this trauma that can be used by professionals and nonprofessionals alike. Designed to be simple and accessible, Narrative Exposure Therapy training, or “The Storytelling Movement,” as we call it, helps survivors to break the silence, giving voice to their painful experiences. When individuals find the courage to tell their stories, their words have the power to deflate the psychological impact of trauma.
In one session led by Dr. Sarah, roughly fifty boys sat in a circle, each with a pen and blank sheet of paper. They were told to draw out a painful memory—one that felt like it kept haunting them. After everyone was done, they were given an opportunity to explain their drawings. We wondered if any would be brave enough to share such painful experiences with their peers. But boy after boy stood up, wanting to tell his story of abduction in the army, the murder of family members, and trauma that changed the course of his life. Most of them prefaced their sharing saying, “I’ve never told anyone this until now.” One boy concluded, saying, “I feel like with these words my soul is becoming free.”