Mental Health Care during Conflict: The Case of Colombia

Vaughan Bell, a clinical psychologist and the main force behind Mind Hacks, spent several years working with Médecins Sans Frontières in Colombia. The MSF (Doctors without Borders) program focused on health in rural areas, particularly those affected by civil combat… 

Mental Health Care during Conflict: The Case of Colombia.

6 thoughts on “Mental Health Care during Conflict: The Case of Colombia

  1. Jim Wheeler

    The study’s conclusions do not surprise me. We have always been a warlike species. Tribal conflict has been a part of human evolution from the earliest records, and probably from when we (likely) exterminated the Neanderthals, whereas disease and substance abuse were intensified recently by the invention of agriculture and the concomitant gathering of large numbers in cities and towns.

    1. Jennifer Carey Post author

      Yes but if you look at things like Domestic Violence, child abuse, and sexual abuse, those have been around forever as well and they seem to be much more damaging than fighting in war. That is what I found surprising. Although the findings seem to just be that *fighting itself* is now damaging, but other elements may be – witnesses sadistic acts (such as torture or intentional harm of civilians), captivity, etc. It will be an interesting paper to read when it is published that is for sure. It is also an interesting topic to examine in the wake of the current crisis among veterans of PTSD and suicide.

      1. Jim Wheeler

        Right, Jennifer. To me the most interesting aspect of this is the one of evolutionary trends, but I don’t have confidence that they can be clearly deduced now. I submit however that things like those you mention, “torture or intentional harm of civilians, captivity, etc.”, while present in our tribal heritage, are different in scale and intensity when institutionalized in large social structures. North Korea comes to mind, as does the civil war in Syria. I wonder what Homo Sapiens will eventually become? Assuming we survive at all, that is.

      2. Jennifer Carey Post author

        Also, one thing to note Jim, is that in Tribal Warfare, there is actually very little death. The objective of tribal warfare is more of a raiding element, not a gaining of territory or slaves or property (nomadic lifestyles did not facilitate this). Yes, all living creatures have an instinct and capacity for violence (although the scope of it is debatable).
        If it gives you any hope Jim, we are actually much less violent than we were only a few decades ago. I have no doubt humanity will prevail.

      3. Jim Wheeler

        Good point, Jen. I recall in that regard the practice by Native Americans of “counting coup”. However, I can’t agree that our capacity for violence has changed in a few decades. Witness the Syrian civil war, the Arab Spring, Ethiopian pirates, Islamist terrorism in Mali, North Korea, the aborted shipment of ground-to-air missiles to Hezbollah, 41 homicides by gun violence in Chicago just this month. Sorry, sorry.

      4. Jennifer Carey Post author

        You’re absolutely right that we still have an extreme amount of violence. However, take a look at the very fact that we have a reactive abhorrence to it whereas only a century ago, it was celebrated (we still had public lynchings and executions). Blood sporting (bear baiting, dog fighting, etc) was hugely popular throughout the world. Go back 500 years, and the accepted and institutionalized practice of torture as a means of justice (e.g. get a confession or die horribly), mass public executions, human sacrifice, etc. Go back 1500 years and you have massive spectacles of death – human tortured sacrifice, massive death spectacles, etc, etc.
        I am certainly not saying that we are far from a violent people. We still are. I’m simply saying that we have been, as a global community, moving away from our relationship with it. The fact that the normal reaction (throughout the world) is not “this is part of life,” but “this is horrid and not how people should live” is a new one and alone provides hope.
        However, I am not so naive as to think that we could not so easily revert to our violent past.

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