When Jungian analyst Inge Missmahl visited Afghanistan, she saw the inner wounds of war -- widespread despair, trauma and depression. And yet, in this county of 30 million people, there were only two dozen psychiatrists. Missmahl talks about her work helping to build the country's system of psychosocial counseling, promoting both individual and, perhaps, national healing.
From dancer to humanitarian by way of analytical psychology, Inge Missmahl's unusual life trajectory led her to Kabul in 2004, where she saw that more than 60 percent of the population were suffering from depressive symptoms and traumatic experiences -- hardly surprising in a country that had lived with ongoing violence, poverty, and insecurity for 30 years. In response, Missmahl founded the psychosocial Project Kabul for Caritas Germany, a project that trained Afghan men and women to offer psychosocial counseling in 15 centers throughout the city.
The project has offered free treatment to 12,000 clients to date, helping to restore self-determination and well-being while breaking down ingrained gender barriers and social stigma of mental illness. Psychosocial counseling is now integrated in the Afghan health system thanks to Missmahl's efforts. She now works on behalf of the European Union as Technical Advisor for Mental Health for the Afghan government, and is founder of International Psychosocial Organisation (IPSO), a network of experts dedicated to developing and implementing psychosocial programs in various contexts.