Sunday, May 2, 2010

Just Get Over It...

This is how crowded the subway often is at rush hour. It's INTENSE. You walk (make that, "shuffle") along like a penguin, almost on autopilot.

A friend of mine was in the train (not the car with the bomb) inside the Park Kultury subway station during the terrorist attack last month, stuck for a while as help arrived and the chaos calmed. I know she saw some pretty awful things, but I haven't asked for any details, and she certainly isn't up to reliving it.

I know that she has had to alter her work schedule since she is now afraid of riding the subway at rush hour, managing to do so when it's less crowded. Luckily her boss has been accommodating so far. But for how long? She's really worried.

She tried to get counseling in the weeks after, but that only made her feel alone, weak and ashamed—in addition to being traumatized!

I am so angry by how she was treated by a so-called professional!

The psychologist's "advice" included nothing more than admonishment that my friend "is difficult, isn't she?" She chided her for "still" having a hard time and being fearful. She basically told her to take some pills or "get over it." She made my friend feel as if it's her own fault she's exhibiting PTSD, since, after all, it's not as if she had been physically harmed.


My friend had basically given up hope about getting any help, assuming all psychologists would treat her this way.

Sadly, this isn't all that surprising. Attitudes about mental health and developments in psychology lag WAY behind in the former Soviet Union. It was dangerous to admit any kind of mental problem, to stand out in any way... So everything was simply denied... Generations of professionals have grown up and been trained in this atmosphere, and society in general has a distrust of psychology and a fear of the mentally ill.

Children with any kind of diagnosis do not fit into the public school system; they are relegated to "special" schools without any kind of mainstreaming, marginalized for good. Private schools can't cope with them much better; they don't have specialists trained to work with such kids, either. On top of this, keep in mind that ADD "doesn't exist" in Russia! The situation isn't good for kids who need help, and it's also bad for others who grow up thinking people with special needs should be kept separate from "normal" society.

We're really lucky that when we needed a child psychologist, we found an American one who had been brought over by an expat family with an autistic child. Furthermore, she had trained a group of Russians who now practice cognitive therapy and who also worked with our kids. (One of those women is now even directing the "social intelligence" program at the girls' school).

I'm thankful we have those connections; through them we found a Russian psychology student who offered to even help my friend for free. I've noticed that Russians who have been exposed to Western therapy techniques as patients become so enthusiastic that they become inspired to become therapists themselves! They see such a need in their country; it's great they're helping to fill it.


Tina in CT said...
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Happymom4 aka Hope Anne said...

Just was in Russia last week--including Moscow and walked down Arbat street. While there, we saw an older gentleman (nicely dressed and carrying a "man-bag") evidently pass out as he was walking and fall flat on his face on the side walk and lay there, totally still. Two passerby's immediately went to him and tried to get him to talk, and when he didn't they immediately drug him UPRIGHT (with his head hanging limply downward--I think he was still unconscious) and hauled him off to the side of the sidewalk . . . I stood, in shock and horror, wanting to rush to them and tell them to let him lay there until the squad got there. . . his face and hands were very bloody--he'd not braced himself at all--I saw him hit flat on his face. It just underscored to me the probable difference between America and Russia again--unless this wasn't common (??) I think their intents were kindly, but so mis-guided by American standards.

We also had a fascinating conversation with our guide about why thrift stores are NOT considered "acceptable" shopping venues in Russia for the most part.

Anything you want to share on either of these topics? I'd be most interested.