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Mental Health Experts Demand Corporate Media Keep Trump's "Massive Human Tragedy"—Child Separations—in Public Eye

The separations and resulting trauma are "a venomous thing to do to children and their parents"

Protesters and their children participate in a march prior to a sit-in in the Hart Senate Office Building to mark the court-ordered deadline for the Trump Administration to reunify thousands of families separated at the border July 26, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

Protesters and their children participate in a march prior to a sit-in in the Hart Senate Office Building to mark the court-ordered deadline for the Trump Administration to reunify thousands of families separated at the border July 26, 2018 in Washington, D.C.  (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

A new interview highlights a call made by a coalition of human rights advocates and mental health professionals for major corporate news outlets to keep in constant public view an ongoing "massive human tragedy"—the Trump administration's immigration policies that have included ripping children away from their parents crossing the Southern border, roughly 140 of whom are still not reunited with their families.

"We are calling on American news media outlets to begin announcing the number of days these children have been separated," said (pdf) Harvard psychologist Dr. Paula J. Caplan, who's leading the call. "It's time news outlets repeated what CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite did during the Iran hostage crisis, when he ended his broadcasts by stating how many days the 52 hostages had been held."

The call, whose endorsers include the Association for Women in Psychology, the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy, and Veterans for Peace co-founder Douglas Rawlings, was first announced Dec. 10—Human Rights Day—and is joined by a companion Care2 petition to be sent to media outlets. As of this writing, it has gathered over 450 signatures.

Speaking to Democracy Now! on Wednesday, Caplan, who is a clinical and research psychologist, described the separations and their impacts as "vicious" and "a venomous thing to do to children and their parents." She explained:

The trauma that's being inflicted on these children and their parents is lasting. Every single day that one of these children is kept apart from their families, the trauma is compounded. And it takes a long, long time to get children to be able to start trusting their own perceptions, to start believing again, if they're reunited with their parents—which some of them never will be, apparently. It takes a long time for them to start trusting that their parents can protect them, that they did love them, and that the separation had nothing to do with the absence of any wishes or any love on their parents' part.

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Over 2,600 immigrant children were separated from their family members over the past year, according to federal data, as a result of the administration's "zero tolerance" policy. Though that policy ended in June, scores of children have been separated since. Moreover, nearly 15,000 others not nabbed under the "zero tolerance" policy remain in U.S. custody, a new Associated Press analysis finds.

Explaining the impetus for their petition, which calls on outlets to provide the figures via a daily updated graphic, Caplan told Democracy Now!: "It's like with the school shootings. You hear one, and, oh, there's been another one. And at first you're horrified. 'Oh, my god! Another one. How many people were killed? How terrifying!' And then, after a while, it disappears from media coverage because it keeps happening."

"The welfare of these children has too quickly passed largely out of view of the public," added Sand Capuano Morrison, CEO of the Institute on Violence, Abuse, and Trauma, in a press statement. "We urge the media to move quickly to ensure ongoing media coverage of this massive human tragedy."

As one Salvadoran mother whose 12-year-old child was taken from her in June told AP, "It's a pain we will never get through."

Watch the Democracy Now! video below for Caplan's full interview:

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