. Ambassador of Armenia to Canada Anahit Harutyunian in center, surrounded by participants and organizers of the event

Montreal Armenians Raise Funds for Psychological Rehabilitation Program in Armenia

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MONTREAL (Abaka Weekly) — A fundraiser took place on Thursday May 5, 2022, at the “Centre Armenie” of city of Laval, near Montreal in Quebec, Canada, for the psychological rehabilitation program Posttraumatic Growth Therapy (PTG). This is a joint venture between Montreal and Yerevan, with the support of the Armenian Medical Association of Quebec (AMAQ) and generous donations of Armenians of Montreal. The event was attended by 200 Montrealers, including Ambassador of Armenia in Canada Anahit Harutyunyan, Honorary Council of Armenia in Quebec Levon Afeyan, Senator Leo Housakos of Canada, and representatives of Montreal Armenian organizations.

Dr. Belinda Gosdanian Yacoubian

Drs. Rita Soulahian Kuyumjian and Belinda Gosdanian Yacoubian provided information about the event and the project. The PTG project was conceived and initiated by Kuyumjian and soon was joined by Gosdanian Yacoubian, a psychologist and member of AMAQ executive committee, as well as its vice president.

Dr. Rita Soulahian Kuyumjian

It is reported that 60 % of traumatized people will experience some kind of growth after trauma. Posttraumatic Growth Therapy facilitates people to change in this direction after trauma rather than have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The latter may become chronic and difficult to treat. With PTG, individuals are helped to live with what they have rather than with what they lost. PTG helps the traumatized person to appreciate life differently and become more resilient. It helps people to improve and appreciate interpersonal relationships on a deeper level. It helps them to find meaning in their loss, and rewrite the narrative of their life, from victim to a healthy survivor, and to become more spiritual. It also guides people to help others and grow from it — hence the name Post Traumatic Growth.

The PTG project began in September 2021 and has four primary goals. First, it intends to treat Armenian soldiers who suffer from the psychological consequences of the 44-day war by application of the PTG workbook, which has been translated to Eastern Armenian by a volunteer. Second, it intends to treat all those, doctors, medics, ambulance drivers, widows, and grieving mothers who were exposed to the immediate effects of the war with PTG trained volunteers. Third, a public awareness campaign will be started to promote the idea that trauma cannot define our nation. Fourth, it will work to change the victim mentality of our public and to help to deal with shame and guilt caused by the war activities. It will do this via public lectures, radio and TV programs. It will work to introduce PTG based education in schools via the Ministry of Education, Health and Social Affairs. Finally, it will publish its before and after treatment data for the benefit of the international community on the psychological consequences of the war and treatment outcome with PTG.

The funds raised at the event will pay for two psychologists in Armenia, whose renumeration is supported by AMAQ members. After being trained in PTG by the joint team in Armenia and Montreal, they will start to treat soldiers under supervision. The rest of the project is done on a volunteer basis.

AMAQ celebrates its 45th anniversary this year. AMAQ is a member of the Armenian Medical International Committee (AMIC). In the audience during the event were two founding members, Drs. Arto Demirjian and Antranik Benohanian. Over the years AMAQ had several projects to help Armenia and Artsakh, among them a dental clinic in Artsakh, and provision of medical supplies during the 1988 earthquake and later on during 44-day Karabakh war.

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AMAQ also provided the Montreal-area Armenian community with medical lectures, job fairs for high school graduates and guidance from members to Montreal youth. Dr. Raphael Vartazarmian, an emergency medicine specialist, as a member of AMAQ went to Armenia during the recent war for a month, and worked alongside Armenian doctors to save the life of wounded soldiers. Kuyumjian and Gosdanian Yacoubian noted that their project is the continuation of Dr. Vartazarmian’s work, exclaiming: “If he helped to keep the soldiers alive, our project aims at psychological rehabilitation of the soldiers.”

Dr. Raphael Vartazarmian

At the event, Dr. Vartazarmian presented a sensitive, informative and uplifting account of his work in Goris region of Armenia during the war. His PowerPoint presentation received a standing ovation and his work won the gratitude of the audience.

Kuyumjian and Gosdanian Yacoubian appealed for ongoing support, declaring: “We hope that the Armenian community of Quebec will continue to support this sacred project. Krikor Naregatsi, our 10th century mystic philosopher, pleads with God, ‘God only you can grow sweet fruits in the desert’. We are hoping that with PTG we can give hope and a future of sweet life to our war heroes and all those who suffered due to war. We believe in the motto of ‘Healthy soldier, strong army and secure motherland’.”

The two also noted that the Sponsor a Teacher program of the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada works towards the same ideal, though viewed from a different perspective.

For more information on AMAQ, see https://www.facebook.com/AMAQ76/.

(The above article is a condensed English version of an interview conducted by Avo Bakkalian and Berdj Kokorian and published in Abaka.)

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