Mental Health Consequences of War and Civil Conflict

South African Journal of Psychiatry, March 2009 | Go to article overview

Mental Health Consequences of War and Civil Conflict


The present escalation of conflict around the world in which civilians are the principal victims is of grave concern, with conflict having serious mental health consequences both for the participants and those they involve, the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) has said in a statement.

Promoting and protecting the mental health and the well-being of the population must be a high priority for governments, says the WFMH, specifically noting the circumstances in Gaza, Darfur, Sri Lanka, and the Congo, among other areas, and pointing out that it does not take sides in armed conflicts. Paying attention to the mental and emotional health of a nation's people must be given added priority during times of stress and conflict such as the world is currently experiencing.

Tension, disruption and uncertainty caused by war and civil strife have major and lasting consequences in the daily lives and routines of children and adults in areas of ongoing violence. Anger and worries about terrorism and military conflicts, the very real fear for safety and survival of civilians and military personnel--all heighten stress and anxiety for everyone. For some, they bring strong feelings of hopelessness and depression and may result in post-traumatic stress, and they add further stress for those already living with a major illness. The overwhelming and constant connection to military and political conflicts created by the worldwide media lends a sense of 'virtual reality' to unfolding events that is inescapable. …

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