Each year, my father and I participate in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s “Out of the Darkness” 20-mile walk through the night. The AFSP walk, held in a different city each year, begins at dusk with an opening ceremony in which survivors –those that have attempted suicide or suffered from depression, or those that have lost a loved one to suicide – share their stories with all of the particpants. Following the ceremony, over a thousand people walk in solidarity with these survivors in attempt to raise funds and bring the stigma of depression and suicide out of the darkness.
This morning, I visited the offices of another one of Survivor Corps ’ partners, the Rwandese Association of Trauma Counselors (ARCT-RUHUKA), an organization training counselors and assisting those suffering from depression and trauma. Jane Abatoni, the Executive Secretary of ARCT-RUHUKA, explained that after the genocide in 1994, although many survivors experienced depression and trauma, few psychological services existed in the country. In addition to a lack of services, trauma was considered a stigma. Many concealed their suffering; those that did not were either placed in the one psychiatric hospital in the country or looked down upon by their community.
Following an initial assessment and some trauma counseling by Trocaire , an Irish Catholic charity, Jane and her colleagues founded ARCT-RUHUKA to increase the number of technical trauma counselors and psychosocial community workers in the country; ensure permanent and professional counseling services at the national and community level; advocate for funding for counselors and better services for those suffering from trauma; and end the stigma of trauma.
As Jane showed us around ARCT-RUHUKA’s center she explained that she decided to do this work not only because of her degrees in counseling and business administration, but because she “developed the love and care for others.” She spoke of the women that came to the center – 80% of the participants in ARCT-RUHUKA’s programs are women – and how many of them lost their families; were raped; and having little education, they have had a difficult time securing employment. “It is human to help others with these difficulties,” Jane told me.
For the first time in five years, I won’t be able to do the AFSP walk with my dad, but I hope that the work I will do with ARCT-RUHUKA will serve a similar purpose in raising awareness and funds for trauma services, and moving the stigma of depression and trauma out of the darkness.
Posted By Lisa Rogoff
Posted Jun 9th, 2009