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48

JULY-AUGUST 2016

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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

Angela Dickey, a retired Foreign Service officer, was

posted in Africa, Canada, the Middle East, Southeast

Asia and Washington, D.C. Now an independent

trainer and consultant, she recently received a master’s

certificate in conflict transformation from Eastern Mennonite Uni-

versity’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. She is also a certified

EMU/CJP STAR (Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience)

trainer.

T

he Foreign Service Act of 1980 mandates

a “career foreign service characterized

by excellence and professionalism” as

“essential in the national interest to assist

the President and the Secretary of State

in conducting the foreign affairs of the

United States.”

Excellence and professionalism are dif-

ficult to maintain in an environment that

requires repeated exposure to stressful and potentially traumatic

situations.

The January-February Foreign Service Journal ,

devoted

to mental health care, contained the poignant and distressing

stories of 45 anonymous Foreign Service personnel. These reports

describe an insensitive and inadequate response from the depart-

ment to an unprecedented level of trauma in the workforce.

The

testimonies of those who wrote to the FSJ

illustrate power-

fully that Foreign Service employees enjoy no separation between

home and job, at least not when they are posted abroad. The

experience is immersive. Note also the following realities for the

typical Foreign Service professional:

• During the past two decades, the Centers for Disease Control

& Prevention and other researchers have documented that trauma

is prevalent in daily life in the United States. Therefore, the depart-

ment must assume that at least some of the persons it hires have

had previous exposure to trauma—even before being sent abroad.

Any employee joining the workforce may have life experiences

that weigh heavily and negatively on his or her wellness.

• More than 25 percent of today’s Foreign Service members

have served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya or Yemen—the

Priority Staffing Posts. Many more have served and are serving in

other dangerous places such as Somalia, South Sudan and Leba-

Long Past Time to

Talk About Trauma

Raising Awareness

and Resilience

FEATURE

Taking better care of employees—from pre-employment

to post-employment—makes economic sense, creates better

morale and is the right thing to do.

BY ANGE LA R . D I CKEY