This article first appeared in The Mennonite. The author, Donna L. Minter, PhD and licensed psychologist lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is an enthusiastic follower of Jesus and active member of Faith Mennonite Church. In addition to being MNPeacebuilding’s executive director, Minter continues to practice neuropsychology and forensic psychology. Married to Bruce Brunner, she has three amazing adult stepdaughters, two fine son-in-laws, and her first grandchild is on her way.
Photo: STAR trainees demonstrate how Truth+Mercy+Justice+Peace=Reconciliation. Photo provided.
Oh, to be a clever writer of Late Night with Seth Meyers! Posted on YouTube on Oct. 10, Fearbola: The Irrational Fear of Catching Ebola, uses intelligent humor to shed light on the truth about Ebola’s highly unlikely transmission in the United States.
According to the USA’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Ebola is a physical disease that only spreads when a person is sick with the virus.
You can’t get Ebola through the air. You can’t get Ebola via water. You can’t get Ebola from food legally purchased in the USA.
You can only get Ebola from touching the body fluids (blood, urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, semen) of a person sick with or who has died from Ebola, touching contaminated objects, like needles, and touching infected fruit bats, apes, and monkeys.
As long as you don’t engage in these behaviors, you will not contract the Ebola virus, you will not die from Ebola. Period. End of story, right? Unfortunately not.
While becoming sick from Ebola is highly unlikely, fear and anxiety is being spread by the media and politicians.
As reported by Marino Eccher’s front page Oct. 26 St. Paul Pioneer Press article, in their fight against the Ebola outbreaks in their home nations, Minnesota’s large West African communities have given food and money, held educational events, and offered health care services.
As the disease ravages Africa, they’re faced with the steep toll of intense loss. Over 4,800 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have died of Ebola, the most widespread in history. Many have lost family and more are inundated daily with public fears and stigma surrounding Ebola.
“We have to fight the psychological trauma,” said Rev. Alexander Collins, executive director of the Liberian Ministers Association of Minnesota.
The association, with more than 50 member churches, is partnering with the Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute (MNPeacebuilding) to train a community-based first-response team.
Collins’ congregations have been hit hard. One person lost 17 family members. Another has lost eight, including her husband and her mother.
“We want to help them through the grieving process,” he said.
Additionally, Collins understands that the Liberian civil war has also left lingering unhealed psychological trauma for his people.
Rev. Collins and I met after several of his community members told him of their transformational experiences taking Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience. The STAR training was created by the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
I took STAR for professional development in 2008 and introduced STAR to Minnesota in 2010.
Although Ebola is different than the 9/11 tragedy, the psychological trauma reactions are the same.
Anytime somebody experiences a traumatic event, their body and brain go through the exact same process. STAR unpacks the full spectrum of trauma and teaches positive productive alternatives to revenge via restorative justice and conflict transformation informed by one’s faith.
It teaches the brain-trauma-behavior relationship and steers victims toward positive coping strategies creating a healing culture for those harmed and setting the stage for reconciliation. STAR is designed for leaders, care providers, professionals, and volunteers.
The STAR need is robust.
In Minnesota, I have organized and taught twelve STAR trainings. Here STAR is offered for 27 hours of professional continuing education for mental health professionals, nurses, educators, and attorneys.
In March 2014 I was hired by EMU to co-facilitate STAR in Fiji to address community and historical traumas. EMU’s STAR program has trained thousands including Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee and Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud building a 13-year national and international reputation of success.
Now MNPeacebuilding is working closely with Minnesota’s West African community leaders to raise $12,000 to become STAR trauma-informed and resilience-oriented empowered community first responders. To help, readers can make tax deductible contributions online or send checks MNPeacebuilding, PO Box 3717, Minneapolis, MN 55403.
Readers wanting trauma healing in their communities should read the Little Book of Trauma Healing by Carolyn Yoder, take the STAR Training at EMU www.emu.edu/star or in Minnesota www.mnpeace.org, and/or sponsor a STAR training in their community.