Our Mission                                                                                                                                      The wound is the place where the light enters you. ~Rumi

The mission of VIRTIS is to improve the health of traumatized refugees, immigrants, and veterans and to support their posttraumatic growth and psychosocial integration through their resettlement, acculturation, or post-deployment.

BACKGROUND

VIRTIS is supported by a staff of trauma experts and immigrant community leaders assisting refugees with their transition from war and refugee camps to a new life in America. We facilitate psychosocial integration and posttraumatic growth through research, clinical interventions, and policy changes.

With 14 million legal immigrants who call today California home, our state leads the nation in the number of refugees who resettle here. The collapse of the Soviet Union and of and its satellites in the Warsaw Pact, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the chaotic destabilization of the Middle East through aggression, external interventions, terrorism and unspeakable atrocities, and the conditions of Iran have led to a dramatic increase of refugees from these countries. Sacramento County, CA, the most diverse metropolitan area in the US, is home to an increasing population of Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian immigrants with distinct languages, culture, religious, and sociopolitical experiences. They tend to be poor, reside in highly concentrated ethnic enclaves, and experience of sense of alienation in their adoptive country. For many refugees, the trauma preceding the flight and followed by the trauma of poor acculturation and alienation results in a severe loss of meaning in life. Cognitive restructuring models of coping (e.g., Park & Ai, 2006) may explain why some trauma survivors develop PTSD and others do not. PTSD is believed to result when a traumatic event shatters core beliefs that establish meaning in life (Janoff-Bulman, 1992) depriving survivors of their future story (Koga, 2008). If people cannot cognitively restructure traumatic events, regain meaning in life, and rebuild core beliefs, depression and guilt may develop. These problems and the significant demographic growth of the refugees in California poses serious challenges both for the immigrants and for the health care system- in particular, because these people do not fit official classifications of disadvantaged minorities due to their skin color. This racial and political invisibility in addition to their sociopolitical history, poverty, acculturation stress, unemployment, and stigma contribute to this population’s high risk for acute and chronic mental disorders, and to insufficiencies in mental health services. On the other hand, the presence of large immigrant populations, both legal and illegal, places a substantial stress on the finances, culture, language, and well-being of the host population. Consequently, the two sides of this public health equation are disjointed by polarized, competing, and politicized interests.

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ORGANIZATIONAL GOALS:

VIRTIS has four main goals summarized in the RISE acronym:

Research:advance the field of refugee trauma through epidemiological surveys, qualitative studies of psychology of violence, cultural, religious, and spiritual determinants of trauma resilience, and outcome evaluations of interventions.

Instruct:Educate, train, and consult providers of mental health services, public health, and other professionals, on culturally competent trauma interventions for refugee and immigrants.

Serve:Provide direct clinical and education services to traumatized individuals and their families. Support the effort of California State's public health system to develop best practices along the population movement continuum by connecting "downstream" systems of care with "upstream" communities of immigrants in their countries of origin or in UNHCR refugee camps.

Empower:trauma survivors, their families, and communities through education, mentoring, partnerships, community-based participatory research, and advocacy.

POSITION STATEMENT

Challenge patronizing advocacy positions towards traumatized immigrants and shift from a deficit psychology of helplessness and victimization, to a positive psychology of dignity and posttraumatic growth.

Promote and support empowerment of refugees and immigrants to rise to self-sufficiency, prominence, and leadership in the host countries. VIRTIS does not provide access to resources nor will it support dependence and learned helplessness. As such, we are able to provide our services only to clients fully commited to honor our help.

Investigate and document the collective determinants of evil and trauma. Often the historical recycling of the roles of victim and perpetrator is ignored by politicized media which tends to dehumanize targeted groups. Hence our commitment to build VIRTIS on a foundation of science and transpersonal psychology.

Explore the paradigm shift from “migrants as enclaves/islands in host countries” to “countries as transit islands" in the global population movement of the 21st century. Investigate globalization's impacts on national sovereignty, identity, language, religion, and culture and their correlates with violent conflicts, peace, and mental health

HISTORY & PARTNERSHIPS

Founded in January 2009, VIRTIS represents a growing number of medical doctors, nurses, psychologists, counselors, social workers, university professors, researchers, military, public health, and other professionals who have also been at some point in their lives veterans, refugees, immigrants, and survivors of tyranny and war atrocities. While taking no political positions, we are committed to help traumatized people rise out of the past, regain their health and spirit, and plant a positive and hopeful view of the future. Based in California’s capital city, Sacramento, VIRTIS is a partner of the Kyrgyz Psychiatric Association, Epicentre in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Omid-e-Mehr, Tehran, Iran , universities such as Lugansk State Medical Academy (LSMA), and service agencies in USA, Europe, Middle East, and Central Asia, California immigrant organizations and radio stations like Bamdad Persian Radio and the Russian and Ukrainian Nashe Radio. Current work includes mapping and needs assessments of the Afghan, Iranian, and Russian-speaking immigrant communities in Northern CA, projects in refugee camps in Turkey, and in the Kyrgyz-Uzbek complex emergency in Osh and Jalalabad, Kyrgyzstan.

 

 

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