Headington Institute Winter eNewsletter
A Few Things Ebola Has Taught Us
Alicia Jones

photo by Cyprien Fabre

It has been nearly a year since a small child’s death cascaded into the Ebola crisis we now face. Since that time, Ebola has evoked many moments of self-reflection as we wrestle to unpack the lessons of poverty, of water, of inequity of resources and health care.
We’ve provided remote counseling and consulting services to many individuals and organizations operating in these regions, and it’s taught us some other very human lessons. We’re reminded how stress is not all the same. Health crises impact us differently than other kinds of stress, tapping into deep fears and vulnerabilities. We’re reminded how social support is crucial for wellbeing. Ebola’s impact of separating sick ones from families, colleagues from other colleagues and creating new divisions of who stays and who goes, strikes deeply at a core need for togetherness. Finally, we’re reminded that vigilance is exhausting. Those who face the rigors of endless protocols and protective measures grow weary from the added strain and constant demands of attention. (And this is true not just for the Ebola crisis, but for all who live in conflict zones, for women living under heightened gender restrictions, or families impacted by chronic illness.)
And so, in addition to supporting humanitarians operating in this crisis, we’re being intentional about addressing these issues in a variety of ways. We’re encouraging back-up resources and the resetting of expectations, knowing that in this environment people can’t keep up the same pace. We’re encouraging creative and intentional social support, emphasizing that now more than ever, leaders, managers, and team mates must regularly affirm care and support. And we’re recommending intentional rhythms of rest - meditation, prayer, inward simplicity - even as the outward rhythms grow more complicated.

New Online Resources

Resilient Responders Blog Series
We have a new Blog series focusing on the primary ways first responders can stay resilient before and after a critical incident. Our ongoing programmatic research has identified these factors as vital to emotional resilience, positively impacting brain function and structure: social support, self-efficacy, meaning and purpose, and physical fitness. You can read about each factor on our blog!

New Resource in Arabic
To serve humanitarian staff working in Syria and Gaza, we’re making available our most popular online module in Arabic: Understanding and Coping with Traumatic Stress.

You can access these resources at our website:


From the President

Today I read a sobering email from an executive of a large humanitarian aid organization, listing the growing risks facing relief workers today. Increasing violence and disease are making international fieldwork very dangerous, and we are receiving more service requests from high-risk locations than ever.  Sometimes, we go there. Sometimes, we provide services remotely. Always, we do whatever we can to help. And, the worst may still be ahead. In fact, we're now part of an ambitious citywide capacity-building initiative to better prepare Los Angeles for future natural disasters, acts of terrorism, pandemics, civil unrest, and cyber-terrorism. In a metropolitan area of 13 million people, any one of these could create an overwhelming catastrophe. Our role, both here and abroad, continues to be promoting responder resilience and recovery by providing training, counseling, consulting, research, and online resources. Thanks for joining with us by donating your expertise and money to support our mission. Together, we are making a difference at a critical time. - Jim

Sabbatical Update

From August 1 to November 1, I was granted a generous sabbatical by the Institute. I spent about half of this time back east in Vermont helping to restore a family home, which also gave me the leisure of a relaxing atmosphere to read new research. I was also able to begin work on a long contemplated manual for the security trainings I have been part of for over six years. In addition, I was privileged to attend a conference at Harvard, entitled "The New Science of Resilience". I was encouraged that much of the research that was presented is already onboard in our Headington materials and resources. A big thank you to all of the Headington Institute family for making this opportunity possible. - Don


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