Here are ways to help students navigate three levels of trauma they may experience as a result of community violence

How instructors can help students with trauma due to Iran’s human rights crisis

Here are ways to help students navigate three levels of trauma they may experience as a result of community violence

“Woman, Life and Freedom”: This slogan has been the foundation of an all-women’s movement in Iran to change the oppressive rules dictating women’s choices in this country. The movement was ignited on September 2022 by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, an Iranian Kurd. She was taken into custody by the Iranian morality police for not wearing her head scarf (known as a hijab) to their satisfaction. While in custody, Mahsa Amini suffered extensive injuries inflicted by the police, causing her death.

Since then, there have been national and international demonstrations to bring attention to the injustices affecting not only Iranian women but also the Iranian youth, who have suffered immensely and lost their lives in pursuit of basic freedom and fundamental human rights. With over 500 deaths of innocent people and over 15,000 political prisoners, it has been a tumultuous trauma for the individuals experiencing and witnessing the recent events.

As Iranian-American higher education faculty and licensed mental health clinicians, we bring this to your attention as these are challenging times not only in Iran, but also globally. We understand this situation, as well as similar events happening globally and locally, may be causing distress, anxiety, survivor guilt, and other emotions in our community. These events have personally impacted us as we try to balance everyday life and navigate being present for clients, students, and colleagues while managing our own triggers, trauma, and survival guilt.

From the mental health perspective of assessing the current events, we recognize the multiple levels of trauma our community experiences: primary, secondary and vicarious traumas. Trauma interconnects on many psychosocial levels and does not discriminate based on one’s social location, which can be understood as intersecting factors including, but not limited to culture, history, race, gender, sexual orientation, and language.

In this article, we will address three levels of trauma that individuals may experience as a result of community violence: primary, secondary, and vicarious. According to the World Health Organization, Trauma is exposure to an incident or series of emotionally disturbing or life-threatening events with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, and/or spiritual well-being. 

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