Disaster and War Are No Strangers to Kira Mauseth

Written by Laura Paskin
May 9, 2013

Psychology Professor Kira Mauseth traveled to Haiti eight times to help victims of the massive earthquake that took more than 250,000 lives. In Haiti, Mauseth trained more than 500 Haitian volunteers to address some of the long-term mental health issues affecting people displaced by crisis. She now conducts a similar program with Syrian refugees in Jordan.

As a specialist in disaster mental health, Mauseth teaches local volunteers the basics of disaster mental health and the techniques and tools they can use to assist and support their neighbors. They in turn train others to help their neighbors cope with loss of life, income, and home.

This past winter, Mauseth travelled to northern Jordan to work with Syrian refugees.They left behind homes, businesses, and often loved ones. Unthinkable horrors of war were followed by the extreme hardship of living in a refugee camp. Some children survived the journal only to die in the camp.

Again using the “train the trainer” approach, Mauseth worked with families, many who crawled across the border into Jordan.

“We focus often only on the logistics related to crisis intervention like how to house and feed people,” Mauseth said. “We cannot overlook the mental health issues that arise with tremendous loss--loss of life, loss of home, loss of income, loss of community.”

Mauseth uses proven tools to train volunteers to help other in their communities. The “trained” become the “trainers.”

Disaster mental health is a specialty psychological practice, and it is not a substitute for psychotherapy. Rather, it alleviates human suffering through proven techniques to provide solace for people in the midst of a crisis. For example, disaster mental health specialists worked with first responders and victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.

Because of the extent of the suffering, training volunteers who then train others is one way to handle the scale of a disaster like Haiti or the Syrian civil war. When Mauseth returned to Seattle to teach, she left behind an ever-increasing number of people who can provide support to their families, friends, and neighbors.

The College of Arts and Sciences, the largest college in Seattle University, offers 42 undergraduate majors, 37 minors, and 7 master's degrees, including an M.A. in Psychology.