Calming Trauma in Conflict Zones
Amber Elizabeth Gray ’83 is a licensed mental health professional, psychotherapist, registered dance movement therapist and public health professional. She is also the creator and director of Trauma Resources International based in Santa Fe, N.M. As a clinician she works with survivors of systematized violence, torture, war and combat related trauma, ritual abuse, domestic and community violence. Her organization provides psychotherapy for individuals, groups and communities worldwide.
Gray routinely travels to areas of the world afflicted by manmade and natural disasters, such as Rwanda and Nepal. Currently, she is helping workers in Haiti who are suffering from burnout due to the prolonged stress of dealing with the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. She hopes, in partnership with local psychologists and the Psychotrauma Centre of Haiti, to develop a nationwide, community-based mental health program to aid Haitians who still face very long-term effects of the ongoing disasters.
Since the quake, Gray has visited Haiti a half dozen times and reports that the fatigue of relief personnel continues to deepen. She says that it is imperative to address the needs of an entire population healing from the catastrophe, while rebuilding a nation. Such therapy incorporates traditional Haitian dance, one of Gray’s specialties. This approach helps Haitians reconnect with their roots during a time of fear and instability.
Gray has received funding from diverse organizations, including, private donors, Kind World Foundation and Naropa University. Her nonprofit, in partnership with Columbia University, has applied for additional revenue for the next phase of interventions. However, Restorative Resources needs an approximate half million dollars over the next five years to fulfill program goals. She estimates that restoration of the country’s infrastructure and national confidence may take as long as 50 years, but Gray’s commitment to Haiti’s healing is unwavering.
“The demand for culturally congruent practical and psychological help is still immense. I will return to Haiti until the day I die,” she says. — Maria Jacketti