Virtual Therapy Helps Residents Of A Violent City
An Phung is a multimedia journalist based in New York City. She has contributed to NYTimes.com, Patch.com and City Limits. She also spent time reporting in Indonesia where she covered stories about the country's growing illicit drug trade. An graduated from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism with a concentration in international reporting.
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What is the Big Idea?
Residents of Ciudad Juárez, home of the highest murder rate in Mexico, now have some relief from the violence through a virtual reality therapy program similar to the one used to treat Iraq war soliders who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.
The virtual scenes that appear in their goggles show one of six scenarios: an armed robbery, a police checkpoint, a safe house for kidnappings and a shootout between cartel gunmen and army soldiers. Patients watch scenes that most resemble their experience and therapists further tailor the sessions to address specific needs, like playing a song heard during their ordeal.
The program greatly reduced post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, with a success rate of 80 percent, according to The New York Times.
What is the Significance?
These exercises are important for these patients because unlike soldiers of the Iraq ware who eventually leave their conflict zones, residents of Ciudad Juárez continue to live in danger. Patients have to drive by or live near where violence occurred and therapy helps them grapple with their reality.
More than 70 percent of the city’s residents had passed by a cordoned-off murder site, according to recent study by the university in Ciudad Juárez. The doctors leading the virtual reality treatment estimate that a quarter of the population in Ciudad Juárez suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
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