Survivors Of War Can Benefit From Transgenerational Trauma Research

In mental health, there tend to be two filters. One is jumping the hurdles of conservative minds, who take offence at those who struggle with the day to day realities of mental exhaustion. They often discombobulate the experiences of sufferers, walking with an attitude that echoes ‘if I can do it, then so can you’.

The second is yet to be proven. Even though time and time again we thread its very existence into the patterns of language, acknowledging its shadow like a folk story.

A coal mine sits along the frontline of Ukraine. Photograph: Ty Faruki

Transgenerational trauma is a word many often confuse, and proving its existence can have far-reaching consequences, and is thus, a reason why funding is rarely given to it.

The latter is important because it can help us better understand mental health.

Diabetes began” …”(brought on by) it is the physical(exertion)

Survivors of war and their offspring can get better treatment if their history, parental influence and biological and inherited traits can be measured for understanding.

My visits to Ukraine offered a window into the lives and happenings of children growing up in war. My own experiences allowed insight into the true extent of trauma which cannot be realised until one has achieved pure safety. It is in this time that memories are pulled like a corkscrew.

Read: Genetics And The Quest For A Better Self

Memories, triggers, such as smells and sounds represent themselves in reactions and physiological ills, such as fainting, nerve damage and physical damage to the epidermis (possibly inflammation).

An anonymous soldier shows scarring on his back caused by nervousness – Photograph: Ty Faruki

In Ukraine, I met people suffering from physical injury who were not scarred by bullets or shrapnel. One soldier (who shall remain anonymous) I met, removed his shirt to reveal scarring of the skin which he believes to be the result of “nerves”.

Another person, a local named ‘Telichko’ detailed her struggles catalysed by the war. 

“Diabetes began” …”(brought on by) it is the physical(exertion), I am very much afraid if something happens to me, my daughter will be on her own”.

She later described her daughter behaves “like an adult”, joking she sometimes gets confused as to who is the real parent, and that she is unshaken by the sound of gunfire. But most who live along the frontlines of conflict react little to what is happening and they carry on with their lives like the war is another part of it.

Professor Neil Greenberg of Professor of Mental Health at the Royal College of Psychiatrists explains:

“In some cases, this may be adaptive. In fact, many people who live in constant war-torn societies suffer some distress and then adapt what they do in order to be able to continue with their lives as best they can”

Telichko sits in a unit used to store jellies and pickles. She now uses it as a bunker. Photograph: Ty Faruki

This stress can then be passed on to future generations.

Transgenerational trauma is often dismissed because of a lack of research to back it, even though studies have shown that influential trauma (which I consider to be part of the TGT spectrum), can have damaging effects on subsequent generations.

There needs to be a comprehensive study to support how mental health disorders can be passed on to successive groups. This can help provide better care for those affected by domestic violence, conflict and children who experience the mental health disabilities of their parents.

Better care for those who may have inherited mental health disorders should be a top priority, and if transgenerational trauma can be definitively proven, we can truly begin to assist people in countries ripped apart by conflict.

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