The relevance of psychological trauma during and in the aftermath of conflicts is widely underappreciated. Internal turmoil can affect people's behaviour, actions and ability to function in the proceeding periods in displacement. Without essential and consistent support, recovery is delayed and trauma becomes marked in society travelling through the generations, decades after war ends.
Psychosocial support should be seen as an investment for sustainable peace and national security. In war, displacement, or resettlement, issues of unresolved anger, frustration and trauma can continue the cycle of violence and spark populist movements entrenching ethno-nationalist politics in the years that follow after history, identity and belonging collide in divided states. Serious attention must be given to MHPSS in conflict if we are to achieve wider social stability and healing.
Our Conflict Trauma research is based along a continuum of mental health. We spotlight how people experience war, fragility and explosive violence uniquely, and how this translates into intimately personal journeys in displacement. We explore the situational factors that exacerbates life in displacement, including economic insecurity, deteriorating health, loss of community ties, and gender-based violence. Building on State-wide commitments on the Sustainable Development Goals, we assess the impact of psychosocial support for newly resettled as part of national public health strategies.
For those working on the frontline of civilian mental health in war, first responders often neglect their own psychological needs. Our research includes the personal stories of aid workers and spotlights the need for greater organisational commitments towards staff care. In a sector that is already poorly funded and limited by capacity, efforts must be taken to protect the psychological well-being of staffers witnessing trauma and violence in emergencies.
The right to mental health and psychosocial support in violent or explosive crises is implicitly tied to the legal and global protections ratified by States. The exposure to harm and deliberate attacks on healthcare stalls efforts to provide efficient medical aid, including psychological first aid, violating rights to healthcare in crises and protection of civilians against weapons of war. Notwithstanding their inherent limits, international laws and resolutions set a clear standard respecting the dignity, rights and safety of civilians, and the need to see communities and traditionally excluded people, especially youth, women and minorities, as key stakeholders in decision-making and essential leaders in conflict resolution, post-conflict reconstruction, and peacebuilding - creating pathways for inclusive healing and equity of treatment.
External to and published independently of Between Borders