Humphrey forum teaches Sept. 11 coping techniques

Courtney Lewis

The Center for Victims of Torture and the Minnesota International Center proposed healthful ways to cope with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in a forum Tuesday evening.

The CVT and MIC organized the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs event to discuss the skills necessary to cope with terroristic attacks. Carol Byrne, executive director of the MIC, said in order to respond to threats of terrorism one must understand the psychology of terrorism.

Many people who seek counseling at the CVT are refugees fleeing their native countries to seek safety in the United States. After the Sept. 11 attacks, a heightened uneasiness arose in the refugees.

Dr. Andrea Northwood, director of training for psychological services at CVT, said she has treated people concerned there are no safe places anymore.

“I point out ways that they are not at risk. Sometimes I’ve even pulled out a map and shown them the distance between Minnesota and the events that occurred in New York and Washington, D.C.,” Northwood said.

Northwood said she often provides refugees who are distanced from the information English-speaking Americans see on television with the knowledge and skills needed to protect themselves.

Shegitu Kebede, an Ethiopian Minnesota resident working for the CommonBond Communities in the Seward neighborhood, reminded the audience of the connection that refugees and many Americans now possess.

“Before, if I told you my story, Americans couldn’t understand,” Kebede said. “But now, after some people have lost everyone – their families, friends – they understand where refugees come from.”

Northwood said gaining the trust of refugees who have lost loved and trusted friends and family members is the largest hurdle in treatment.

“It may be the long-term goal of therapy to establish that trust once more,” she said.

Evelyn Lennon, coordinator of the Organization for Refugee Resettlement Project at the CVT, said fleeing from one terror to find another in a new home has given her clients a tortured feeling of not belonging. But she said the refugees’ community has been a reassuring comfort.

“Individuals draw from their community, and I think that’s even more evident with refugees,” she said. It’s always good to know who your neighbors are, especially now in a time of need.”

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