Traumatic stress can result from many causes and can be experienced by people in a spectrum of severity. Traumatic stress due to witnessing or directly experiencing violence, hunger, disease and economic hardship has a history of prevalence in many communities across Africa.
Among the more severe effects of traumatic stress, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental disorder caused by experiencing or witnessing deeply traumatic events. Many people think PTSD affects only soldiers, but that is not the case. Anyone who has experienced or witnessed a deep trauma, such as war, extreme violence, sexual abuse or a natural disaster may carry develop post-traumatic stress disorder.
Experiences of PTSD may include frequent painful recollections, flashbacks, feeling withdrawn or separate from others, thoughts of suicide and tendencies toward anger and violence. Without intervention, these symptoms may continue for years.
Wherever violent conflict has occurred, many women and children, as well as soldiers in Africa, suffer from PTSD. In South Africa, which is not even at war, Dr. Eugene Allers, past president of the South African Society of Psychiatrists, estimates that up to 25% of the population suffers from PTSD. In historically war-torn areas such as The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, etc, estimates range upwards to 50% of the population suffering from PTSD.
Individuals who suffer from PTSD are at an increased risk for drug, alcohol and cigarette use, all of which impact health and productivity. Additionally, PTSD sufferers are more often angry, violent or suicidal and are less able to maintain relationships. So PTSD affects not only individuals, but their families, the neighborhood, and the nation as a whole. PTSD is serious and widespread across Africa, and we provide a unique and effective approach to this problem.
Igilima is a Congolese refugee who learned TM in Uganda. He told us about his life before and after learning this technique:
"I have many bitter images. For example, I still see the images of how they tortured my father before shooting him right in front of my eyes. In the past, I spent a greater part of my time worrying about things. Thoughts that did not benefit me flooded my mind.
"Things started changing in my life after the third day of practicing meditation (TM) consistently. My worries became less and less, and I felt more relaxed.
"I meditate every night before I go to bed, and in the morning when I wake up. This consistent practice has kept me feeling good and less worried."