Article of the Week
This daily feature is the introduction to a full article by Colleen Whitley that was published in issue 39:2. To read the full text of this article, follow the link below.
In all humanitarian crises, once the physical needs of victims are stabilized, the emotional problems created by the disruption surface. Survivors of trauma experience psychological crises as great as the lack of food and shelter— disorientation, extreme grief, a sense of loss, confusion. Providing long-term assistance for survivors—helping them regain their homes or start new ones, retraining them for employment, rehabilitating them from wounds or injuries—requires aid workers trained to deal with the effects of trauma.
Cognizant of those needs, the LDS Church also maintains a reserve of expertise as remarkable and as readily tapped as its food supplies. Professionals in various kinds of social, emotional, and crisis intervention are regularly employed in Church social services and schools. In addition, many members who are outstanding professionals in the private sector can and will serve as needed.
One such individual called to Albania to assess the emotional problems of the Kosovar refugees and outline a strategy for dealing with them was Dr. Dean Byrd, a clinical psychologist and family therapist with LDS Family Services. Pulled from his normal routine of counseling and teaching, Byrd traveled to Albania to witness relief efforts being made by the Church in concert with many other agencies and to determine methods to help victims re-adjust. His specific assignments included interviewing refugees, families housing refugees in their homes (host families), and other aid workers; interfacing with other agencies; and preparing protocols for missionaries, especially missionary couples, who would follow him into the country.
Dealing with traumatic situations can be enervating, and Byrd has developed methods of dealing with his own emotions. He finds writing by hand, sometimes for as much as an hour and a half each evening, to be especially therapeutic. Byrd's commentary on the Kosovars, their Albanian hosts, and his own professional and emotional responses offers an enlightenment into the problems of crisis situations. His diary is presented here in standard English, transcribed from his personal shorthand. A few sections are deleted to avoid repetition and to protect the privacy of some of the individuals he encountered. His remarkable honesty about his own feelings reveals his emotional journey that "started with a sense of purpose that ended with a sense of meaning."