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10. Surviving Trauma & Tragedy: Lessons For Future Physicians & Mental Health Professionals

Winner of the 2007 Freddie Award in Psychiatry

Victims of violence often feel shame, self-blame and rejection. Some develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder; a psychological wounding that is oftentimes unrecognized and misunderstood. Unlike rituals for birth, death and other significant occasions, there are no ceremonies for survivors of violence to help them regain their sense of self or celebrate their progress and humanity. This program reminds us that those who endure human cruelty have lives of dignity and meaning -- even though they were mistreated by perpetrators, and, on occasion, by professionals and by family. This compelling program, filmed in a live classroom setting at Michigan State University is a unique teaching tool for educators in the health field. Aimed at medical students it is also equally suited for nurses and allied health professionals.

The audience is the Class of 2007, College of Human Medicine, at MSU. The speakers are trauma survivors, members of the Michigan Victim Alliance, discussing details of personal traumatic events that led to their being diagnosed with PTSD. The moderator, Mike Walter, is an award winning morning anchor and reporter for WUSA TV in Washington, D.C. The teacher and expert commentator is Dr. Frank Ochberg -a psychiatrist and the former Associate Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, and a member of the team that wrote the medical definition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Dr Ochberg is a founding board member of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

The 4 panel members include: A pregnant woman who was abducted at gunpoint while shopping for her family, and then raped; A man whose fiancé was murdered in front of him, in his home by intruders; A couple whose 20 year old son was a victim of homicide; A man who was shot outside his home and his wife who shares his long and continuing battle to overcome his physical and psychological wounds.

These extraordinary survivors tell their stories with candor and courage; all demonstrate a deep commitment to helping other survivors. Their stories will help future health professionals realize how important doctors, nurses and members of the medical team can be in the diagnostic and recovery process for survivors of extreme trauma.

The purpose of this program is to provide insight about the profound effects of PTSD, and the role of the health professional. It explains the cluster of symptoms that physicians need to know in order to diagnose PTSD; how PTSD symptoms affect the victim and their relationships; the role of dignity, caregiver burden, compassion fatigue, and medication. It also touches upon Dr. Ochberg's treatment philosophy, including the "Counting Method" for ameliorating flashbacks. The program is also suitable and excellent for a general audience, survivors, victim advocates and clergy. It was produced by The Michigan Victim Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to the healing and protection of victims of violence, trauma, and abuse. All featured participants donated their time.

Copyright 2006 Michigan Victim Alliance. Funding was provided by the Dart Foundation.

DVD. $50.00. RT: 82 minutes.

For more information about the Michigan Victim Alliance please the website at

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DVD Review

"Surviving Trauma & Tragedy: Lessons for Future Physicians & Mental Health Professionals"

"Surviving Trauma & Tragedy" is a wonderful tool for educating and sensitizing medical students to the issues of trauma. Dr. Ochberg is a wonderful teacher who has learned and feels the importance of compassion for traumatized people and how to assist them in recovering their strength, dignity and perseverance in life. The use of live people with real stories is very compelling.

Carl C. Bell, M.D.
President/C.E.O. Community Mental Health Council

DVD Review

An insightful look into the range, breadth, and depth of trauma.

Surviving Trauma & Tragedy holds lessons for us all. Though directed toward physicians, this DVD speaks clearly and compelling to everyone. Anchor Mike Walter gracefully and respectfully interviews survivors of four horrific crimes, giving voice to our own questions. The survivors respond with the dignity, complexity and terrifying detail we need to hear. Throughout, Frank Ochberg offers a social and therapeutic perspective that speaks to our heads and our hearts.

As a survivor, educator, and author, I was moved by the stories, enlightened by the information, and inspired by everyone's courage and candor.

-Migael Scherer
Author, Still Loved by the Sun: A Rape Survivor's Journal
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DVD Review

"Surviving Trauma & Tragedy: Lessons for Future Physicians & Mental Health Professionals"

"Dr. Frank Ochberg's presence at center stage is the intelligent and understanding anchor which holds the participants of this moving presentation in a safe emotional place. It's obvious that the half-dozen survivors of trauma and PTSD who have previously spent time with Dr. Ochberg are both healed and whole for the effort. Dr. Ochberg's lifetime of training, research, and work in this clinical realm are obvious to all who have the valuable experience of working with him, either as clinicians or trauma survivors seeking help.

Although this seminar was presented to medical students, nurses would benefit equally well from attending one of Dr. Ochberg's presentations since they are the 'first line' of assessment and clinical interaction with patients at risk for and experiencing PTSD."

Thom Schwarz, RN, Former Editorial Director, American Journal of Nursing.
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DVD Review

"Surviving Trauma & Tragedy: Lessons for Future Physicians & Mental Health Professionals"

"This video has excellent value as an educational and training tool with some potential value for the practitioner who is treating the traumatized. Excerpts or individual stories would make excellent illustrations of the impact of trauma in education or training contexts. The same might be judiciously used with some traumatized persons as a way of normalizing their reactions and/or encouraging them to talk about their own experiences more fully. Its greatest use, however, is with students in a wide array of professional caregiving roles as an introduction to trauma and its impact, as well as a foundation for how to respond in a helpful manner. The use of this video in any educational, training, or therapeutic context, however, has the potential of being distressful or activating traumatic stress for those who view it. Those making such use should plan to address this reality in a constructive manner, both before and after its viewing."

Jay Martin
Oklahoma Traumatology Institute
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
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