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Center for Deployment Psychology trains Trinidad Behavioral Health Providers to Support Refugees

Syrian refugee camp

Courtesy of CDP

In a unique offering, the Uniformed Services University’s Center for Deployment Psychology (CDP) recently provided training to behavioral health providers and Muslim counselors in Trinidad to aide refugees who will be returning home from Syria later this year.  The training provided education in trauma, stress, anger, reintegration and depression for those providers who will directly care for and treat these refugees.

The U.S. Embassy in Trinidad requested support through the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), which oversees military operations throughout the Caribbean, and Latin, Central and South America.  In turn, SOUTHCOM requested CDP’s assistance in support of the nearly 100 women and children, many of whom were recruited by terror organizations, who will be returning home and reintegrating into their communities.

Felicia Perkins Ferreira with her children Ayyub and Mahmud at their home in Trinidad after their return from a Syrian refugee camp.
Felicia Perkins Ferreira with her children Ayyub and Mahmud at their home in Trinidad after their return from a Syrian refugee camp. (Photo Credit: Andrea
De Silva/The Guardian)

Between 2013 and 2016, Trinidad experienced a high export of its nationals to Iraq and Syria with many being noncombatant women and children who got caught up in the decline of ISIS. Once repatriated, these displaced refugees often have a difficult time reintegrating into their former communities and society.

The initial training session for providers and counselors was held online on September 17, 2020, and was a joint effort by CDP and SOUTHCOM.  One of CDP’s senior military behavioral health psychologists, Dr. Kelly Chrestman, provided an introduction to Psychological First Aid, with training support materials provided by the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and also covered a proposed stepped care model. Additional topics covered included a “Background and Framework on the Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Returnees from ISIS.”  

This effort supports not only the women and children refugees of Trinidad, but also helps with ongoing U.S. diplomacy in the western hemisphere. This training is the first of its kind from SOUTHCOM, and CDP anticipates requests for additional training to include assessment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and evidence-based psychotherapy workshops in treatments for PTSD as more refugees return to Trinidad. 

“This has been a fantastic opportunity to leverage the expertise of the CDP to support an important request from a combatant command and help to address a humanitarian crisis,” said Dr. David Riggs, CDP director.

A landscape photo of Trinidad
More than 100 refugees will be returning to their homes in Trinidad from Syrian camps later this year. USU's CDP provided training for mental health
providers and Muslim counselors who will be working with the refugees. (Photo Source: Wikipedia/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0
International)