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TALK TO DR AMINU MAGASHI Talk to DrAminu Magashi What is Stockholm syndrome? I read and equally watched on the television, the experiences of three…


Talk to DrAminu Magashi

What is Stockholm syndrome?

I read and equally watched on the television, the experiences of three victims of kidnap in the Niger Delta and North-East. Some of them were behaving as if their captives didn’t do anything wrong but just using them as shield to make money. They showed sympathy to their captives. Could that qualify as Stockholm syndrome? Please provide highlights on this syndrome.

Musbahu N.

Thanks Musbahu for your question. Yes exhibiting such behavior by the victims falls under the symptoms of Stockholm syndrome which refers to “a group of psychological symptoms that occur in some persons in a captive or hostage situation. The term takes its name from a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, in August 1973. The robber took four employees of the bank (three women and one man) into the vault with him and kept them hostage for 131 hours.

After the employees were finally released, theyappeared to have formed a paradoxical emotional bond with their captor; they told reporters that they saw the police as their enemy rather than the bank robber, and that they had positive feelings toward the criminal. The syndrome was first named by Nils Bejerot (1921-1988), a medical professor who specialized in addiction research and served as a psychiatric consultant to the Swedish police during the standoff at the bank. Stockholm syndrome is also known as Survival Identification Syndrome.

Stockholm syndrome is considered a complex reaction to a frightening situation, and experts do not agree completely on all of its characteristic features or on the factors that make some people more susceptible than others to developing it.

Stockholm syndrome has three central characteristics according to some experts:

1. The hostages have negative feelings about the police or other authorities.

2. The hostages have positive feelings toward their captor(s).

3. The captors develop positive feelings toward the hostages.

Causes & symptoms

Stockholm syndrome does not affect all hostages, however three factors are necessary for the syndrome to develop:

1. The crisis situation lasts for several days or longer.

2. The hostage takers remain in contact with the hostages; that is, the hostages are not placed in a separate room.

3. The hostage takers show some kindness toward the hostages or at least refrain from harming them. Hostages abused by captors typically feel anger toward them and do not usually develop the syndrome.

In addition, people who often feel helpless in other stressful life situations or are willing to do anything in order to survive seem to be more susceptible to developing Stockholm syndrome if they are taken hostage.

People with Stockholm syndrome report the same symptoms as those diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder, insomnia, nightmares, general irritability, difficulty concentrating, being easily startled, feelings of unreality orconfusion, inability to enjoy previously pleasurable experiences, increased distrust of others, and flashbacks.

1. Treatment of Stockholm syndrome is the same as for post-traumatic stress disorder, most commonly a combination of medications for short-term sleep disturbances and psychotherapy for the longer-term symptoms.

2. The prognosis for recovery from Stockholm syndrome is generally good, but the length of treatment needed depends on several variables. These include the nature of the hostage situation; the length of time the crisis lasted, and the individual patient’s general coping style and previous experience(s) of trauma.

3. Prevention of Stockholm syndrome at the level of the larger society includes further development of crisis intervention skills on the part of law enforcement as well as strategies to prevent kidnapping or hostage-taking incidents in the firstplace. On the part of the victims, its requires counseling and careful observation and support to help the person out of the experience.

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CSOs Declaration on immunization in Africa

Everybody is thrilled that the1st ever Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa will take place for the 1st time on February 24-25 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It has the theme “Toward Universal Immunization Coverage as a cornerstone for health and development in Africa”. It will be a meeting of ‘who’s who in Immunization’ involving African health and finance ministers, advocates, technical experts, policymakers, donors and journalists to exploit the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to expanding access to vaccines across the continent.

The conference website revealed that “universal access to immunization is at the forefront of enabling Africa to reach its full potential – by improving health, driving economic growth and empowering future generations. Immunization is one of the most cost-effective solutions in global health, with clear benefits for health and development. Vaccines are a major reason child deaths in Africa fell by more than half between 1990 to 2012 saving millions of lives.

Today Tuesday, 23rd February 2016, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) will hold a side event to brainstorm on how to support the implementation of the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) and already the Civil Society Declaration for equitable access to Immunization in Africa has been shared and many groups have already signed up . Next week I will talk about the outcome of the CSOs meeting as well as the entire conference. I will highlight below key content of the declaration.

The declaration observed that ‘one of the most successful and cost-effective public health interventions, immunization programs globally have saved the lives of more than thirty million children in the last 15 years alone according to the World Health Organization. Recognizing the critical role and impact of immunization, the global health community, in partnership with World Health Organization, declared the period of 2011-2020 the “Decade of Vaccines” and established a vision to accelerate the public health impact of global vaccination by 2020: the Global Vaccines Action Plan, ratified by 194 United Nations member states.’

It also emphasized that impressive progress has been made over the last decade in improving immunization coverage across the region, including the remarkable elimination of transmission of wild poliovirus. However, this progress has recently stagnated and the key targets of the Global Vaccine Action Plan remain off-track.

CSOs call on the governments of all countries at the meeting and across the region to commit themselves to the following:

1. Ensure that all residents of their country, especially the poorest and most marginalized, have access to immunization and other essential health services to attain universal immunization coverage goals by 2020.

2. Strengthen health systems that deliver immunization services, especially through ensuring a strong health workforce in reach of all communities, sufficient and sustainable financing, and a strong supply chain for uninterrupted purchase and delivery of vaccines in sufficient quantity to meet the population’s needs through increasing the national budget dedicated to health by 2020.

3. Ensure that no financial barrier prevents a child from accessing life-saving vaccinations by committing to and implementing universal health coverage policies.

4. Adopt lessons learned from the effort to eradicate polio from the continent, and ensure that the investment in polio eradication is effectively leveraged to support immunization and other health goals.

5. Reach all six of the targets agreed to under the Global Vaccines Action Plan by 2020, including achieving full coverage of the Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (DTP3) vaccine and all vaccines in national immunization programs.

6. Engage and support civil society to contribute to the reduction of immunization inequity, including by raising community awareness and public demand for immunization programs.

The call wasn’t all about engaging government but also a pledge by the CSOs to take action on bridging the gap on immunization to:

1. Support government efforts in delivering vaccination, ensuring that these services reach communities in hard-to-reach locations and marginalized communities.

2. Support efforts to increase the acceptability and uptake of vaccines in these communities through demand creation activities.

3. Deliver immunization services in emergency and crisis contexts where appropriate;

4. Assist governments to improve the performance and management of the systems that deliver vaccination.

5. Participate in the elaboration, implementation, and monitoring of health and immunization policies.

6. Hold governments accountable to deliver the immunization services needed by their entire populations, especially the poorest and most marginalized members of society.

7. Raise the voice of communities by supporting and empowering them to participate in immunization processes and accountability mechanisms.

8. Hold donor country governments and multilateral institutions accountable to fulfil the pledges they have made to deliver funding and support for immunization and ensure this is aligned with national health plans and priorities.

All comments to Dr Aminu Magashi, Publisher Health Reporters ([email protected])

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