A few months ago I was listening to a program on NPR in which a man told a story of his trip to Rwanda after the genocide.
The man on NPR, an American, was relating a conversation he’d had with a Rwandan leader about the psychological after effects of the genocide and the various efforts in his country to help genocide survivors to move on with their lives.
The Rwandan leader said that in his country, it was relatively well known what people need to recover from trauma and depression:
1-They need to go outside
2-They need to feel the sunlight on their skin
3-They need to breathe the fresh air
4-They need to move their bodies
5-They need to see that their friends, family, and their entire village love them and care about them
Breathe, move, love, repeat, until you’ve recovered.
The Rwandan leader then compared these needs to the “treatment” provided by Western psychologists who volunteered their services in his country after the genocide:
“They just wanted to take people into dark rooms without their families around, and make them talk about all the bad things that happened to them. They couldn’t be persuaded to stop doing this. Eventually we had to ask them to leave.”
Today, ten years after 9/11/2001, with every imaginable media outlet in America trotting out alarm clock nostalgia, I can’t help comparing the Rwandan attitude towards recovery to the American one.
As a person who lived in New York before, during and after 9/11, I feel like I have some ground to stand on when I say, yes it was a terrible day, but people, it’s time to move on. Go outside, feel the sunlight on your face, be with the people who love you, and please don’t allow the media to hijack your emotions today or any day.
Photo credit: r0sss on Flickr