I was speaking at a healthcare advocacy meeting about the future of community behavioral health. A fellow presenter is the Research Director of the Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Program at Duke. Dr. Connor has received numerous awards, grants and lectures worldwide. She has developed a test instrument, a resiliency scale that assesses a person’s ability to overcome traumatic events.
Dr. Connor says if you can teach resiliency to patients, you can help move them beyond the stressors. For example, help patients regulate their emotions and not panic; teach them some way of staying calm under pressure (breathing, focusing, muscle relaxation); or help them to identify some inner resource and enable them to take one step forward. All of these can help patients get through the trauma.
Working with soldiers who suffered the psychic casualties of war, she found that the best way to treat the psychological consequences of war is to teach sufferers how to be more resilient. During the discussion, I asked her if I had heard her correctly, that the best way to deal with the psychiatric sequelae of war is to teach resilience, and she said yes. I responded that the best way to deal with the tragic consequences of war is to stop war. She said history had proven such an expectation unreasonable and the best we can do as psychiatrists is to develop better ways of treating post-traumatic stress.
Sadly, this represents the dominant view of how medicine is practiced in the 21st century. Doctors diagnose illnesses and prescribe treatment. This is done in spite of the fact that everybody knows the great advancements in medicine have always come from the discovery of cause and preventing its outbreak. Find the pathogens or toxin, and eliminate the problem at its source.
The best treatment for the tragic consequences of war is to stop war, not to patch up wounded warriors. Psychiatrists need to get out into community and talk about peace as a health strategy. There are medical doctors who are actually doing this. Patch Adams, M.D. and Deepak Chopra, M.D. are part of a global community of conscious peacemakers who see their jobs as preventative health strategists.
I recommend Chopra’s new book, Peace Is the Way: Bringing War and Violence to an End. Check out these websites as well: www.peaceisthewayglobalcommunity.org and www.patchadams.org.
We cannot cavalierly dismiss the idea of peace, balance, or harmony as unrealistic goals in order to justify dealing with the symptomatic manifestations of disease. It is better to promote peace than to simply promote resilience to the traumas of war.