The Human Toll of Collective Trauma

The Ravages of War and Persecution

  • Olga Gouni Prenatal Sciences Research Institute, Athens, Greece
  • Thomas R. Verny, MD


This paper explores the concept of historical trauma (HT) as an extension of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), expanding the definition to encompass the accumulated emotional and psychological trauma across generations and lifespans. Coined by Lakota social work professor Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, HT refers to the enduring impact of abuse and displacement on marginalized groups, such as enslaved African Blacks, Native Americans, Indigenous people in Canada, and others globally. HT becomes ingrained in cultural memory, impacting individuals with symptoms including depression, survivor guilt, anger, substance abuse, hypervigilance, and more.
Examining the distinction between history and collective memory, the paper delves into the effects of persecution and oppression on specific groups, emphasizing chronic and severe stress. The focus extends to genocides worldwide, exploring maternal stress's impact on fetal development, drawing insights from events like the Ice Storm in Quebec, the Leningrad siege, and the Dutch famine. The paper concludes by questioning whether interventions can mitigate the maternal/paternal transmission of stress-induced pathologies, providing avenues for further research and potential solutions to alleviate the enduring effects of historical trauma.

Oct 10, 2023
How to Cite
GOUNI, Olga; VERNY, Thomas R.. The Human Toll of Collective Trauma. International Journal of Prenatal and Life Sciences DOI:10.24946/IJPLS, [S.l.], p. 1-40, oct. 2023. ISSN 2945-011X. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 23 june 2024.