KIDAPAWAN CITY -- Fifty-four trauma victims completed on Sunday a three-day healing and training on psycho-social support and post-traumatic management held at the Oblates of Mary Immaculate shrine at Barangay Binoligan here.

Most of the participants were displaced by the ongoing fight between warring groups in Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces.

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Of the 54 participants, 20 of them were trained to become trauma counselors and facilitators, said one of the trainers, Fr. Edgardo de Jesus, of the Psycho-Trauma Clinic of the University of Santo Tomas (UST).

De Jesus said almost all of the participants, most of them women, experienced the traumas of wars.

More than half of the participants were youth aged 14 to 22, who had also come from conflict-affected areas in Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

During the training, the participants learned basic communication skills, including listening, and the art of asking questions to patients with post-traumatic disorders.

"All of them have their own 'wounded-ness', because of wars but we trained them to become 'de-briefer' and 'first responders' in times of calamities, be it man-made or natural," de Jesus said.

If the trauma is not yet "released", according to Fr. de Jesus, the person will likely suffer a post-traumatic syndrome, a severe anxiety disorder brought about by an exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma.

To become effective trauma counselor, de Jesus said one must possess empathy and compassion.

"It would be easy for these trainers to become effective counselors because they can easily relate to the patients. They themselves were victims of wars," he said.

One of them who possess some of those qualities was Manny whose father, an Army soldier, was killed in a roadside bombing, along with the municipal mayor of Datu Piang in Maguindanao, on December 22, 2002.

Manny's father was the security escort of the late Datu Piang Mayor Datu Saudi Ampatuan, son of the former Maguindanao Governor Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr. Manny said the death of his father brought trauma not only to him but to the whole family, as well.

Though the killing took place almost eight years ago, "the pain of losing a father is still there," he said.

But Manny, when asked as to whether he wanted to take revenge for his father's death, said, "I have already forgiven them," and is already emotionally disengaged from the trauma.

"Through help of my family and friends, I already let go of it," said Manny.

The UST Psycho-Trauma Clinic has partnered with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in conducting these series of training-workshops for internally displaced persons (IDPs) from North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

"We, at the DSWD, in collaboration with other agencies, are training community women volunteers on mental health and psycho-social support in emergency setting. What we're doing is that for the people in the community to be aware of what they're supposed to do especially for these children or the affected population that has encountered traumatic experiences or situations," said Suzette Agcaoili of DSWD central office.

"The trainees are taught on the psychological first aid, a process wherein the trauma counselor provide people in the community, in trying to process on what happened, keep them calm... provide a safe place where there's participation in the community. It's like alleviating the people that has been affected by traumatic events and situations that they would be able to come back to normalcy," Agcaoili added. (Malu Cadelina Manar)