The Foreign Service Journal - April 2017
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APRIL 2017




Handling Stress and Trauma in the Foreign Service

On Feb. 6, a panel discus-

sion on resilience was held

at AFSA headquarters.

The event was sponsored

by the State Department

and USAID, in partnership

with the Una Chapman

Cox Foundation, the Inter-

national Peace & Security

Institute and the Association

for Diplomatic Studies and


The members of the

panel were Ambassador

(ret.) Charles Ries, USAID

Office of Transition Initia-

tives Team Leader Rachel

Karioki, Director of the

Center of Excellence in

Foreign Affairs Resilience

Beth Payne and Program

Director for international

programs at IPSI, Andrés

Martinez. Panelists focused

on building resilience and

on managing and prevent-

ing stress-related problems,

including post-traumatic

stress disorder (PTSD), for

Foreign Service personnel

and other frontline civilians.

Amb. Ries gave the key-

note, recalling his experi-

ences as U.S. ambassador

to Greece when a rocket

propelled grenade hit the

embassy building in Janu-

ary 2007. Thankfully no one

was hurt, but the attack

nonetheless had a profound

effect on the embassy com-


Ries discussed his use

of town hall meetings to

provide information quickly

and reassure embassy staff,

which he believes helped

reduce the severity of

stress-related problems for

those affected.

Following the presenta-

tion, the panel took ques-

tions from the audience

about resilience strategies,

dealing with PTSD and

the perceived stigma that

remains around mental

health issues.

As Andrés Martinez,

noted during the discussion,

“Resilience is not a trait that

people either have or don’t


IPSI, in conjunction with

the Una Chapman Cox

Foundation and ADST, have

launched the Resilience Hub

for Frontline Civilians (www., an

anonymous online resource

center for training, educa-

tion, self-assessment and

tools to help individuals and

groups build resilience and

prevent PTSD.

A recording of the event

is available at the AFSA web-



—Gemma Dvorak,

Associate Editor

Panelist Beth Payne answers a question from the audience at the Feb. 6 discussion on stress and trauma in the Foreign Service community.