Mar 2013 11

Trauma among GRG’s groups – learning to ‘put down the shield’

Posted in News

“Trauma is just human nature and people should not fear. We should educate others about this” – GRG Group Member

Opodo Matuku (meaning ‘It Fell Freely’) is one of GRG’s beneficiary groups. Through group discussions the members have indentified trauma as one of their biggest barriers towards reconciliation in their local community. Group members continue to suffer from traumatic experiences and bad memories from the long war in northern Uganda.

In collaboration with the group, a one-day psycho-educational module was developed, targeting those affected – directly and indirectly – by trauma.

Education around the psychological impact of traumatic events is an important part of an individual’s emotional healing. Understanding why people continue to suffer years after the conflict can help to reduce distress associated with symptoms and even the symptoms themselves.

Group member posing with the Acholi shield.

A traditional Acholi shield was used to represent how the human body equips us to survive during times of extreme danger. Our bodies become alert and our minds fixed on the danger. When danger has passed our body can fail to put-down ‘the shield’ and we remain with these feelings of anger, anxiety, nightmares and flashbacks.  The ‘shield’ metaphor helps to normalise and reframe the trauma symptoms, and is particularly effective in making the message clear, memorable and culturally relevant.

The workshop facilitated the development of community-based support structures. The ideas proposed by the group about how the community could support one another included; being available to counsel and listen, letting go of the bad things from the past, praying together, showing love to each-other and actively involving those still suffering in group and community life.



Group member of Opodo Matuku enjoying the breathing exercises, which help to reduce perceived threat during severe panic.

The group asked for a flipchart and pens so that they can pass on what they have learnt to other community members. Traumatic experiences can leave people with a deep sense of helplessness and disempowerment, so this outcome in itself was particularly significant.


“I have learnt coping mechanisms to help me feel relaxed and calm.” – GRG group member.


By Theresa Jones, GRG’s Trauma and Psychosocial Advisor


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