With his case now claiming public attention, former Justice Minister Jenkins Z.B. Scott is slated for mental examination following the intervention of a US-based Liberian medical doctor who read about his plight in disbelief. There are conclusions that the once all-powerful minister in the military junta has lost his mind or gone crazy. This weekend, his colleagues, former cabinet ministers in the junta, will meet to complete arrangements for his mental examination.
But according to various examinations that American health experts have undertaken here, people exposed to extreme violence suffered mental disorders in the end. In the case of Mr. Scott, he was at the center of a highly violent regime, with reports that it mutilated several of its victims alive. These studies showed that fighters exposed to sexual violence suffered more mental illness than those that were not.
A study of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSD), entitled ‘Path of Mental Illness’ Follows Path of War, 20 Years After Conflict Ends’, by American health experts, shows that areas in the country in which the conflict was heavier suffered more. These include, according to the study, Nimba County, dating from 1989:
ScienceDaily (Aug. 9, 2010) — Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health assessed the geographical distribution of the long-term burden of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in a region of Liberia and report that the prevalence of PTSD remains high nearly two decades after the principal conflict there and five years after war in Liberia ended entirely.”
Of particular interest to the researchers was the geographic distribution of PTSD.
“Investigators found that certain villages in the region had a much higher prevalence of PTSD than did others. When they compared to the historical record about the path of the violent civil conflict that Nimba County experienced from 1989 to 1990 the team found that these were villages that had experienced the greater burden of war.
“This suggests that there is much more to the aftermath of conflict than a ‘path of blood’ and that populations who are unfortunate enough to have been in the ‘path of trauma’ experiencing severe, violent conflict are likely to bear a burden of psychopathology for decades thereafter,” says Sandro Galea, MD, chair of the Mailman School Department of Epidemiology, and the study’s first author.
The pattern of conflict and psychopathology is even more remarkable, observes Dr. Galea, when considering that so many in the sample were very young during the period of these events and did not themselves experience some of the traumatic events firsthand.
The investigators based their findings on a representative survey of the population in post-conflict Nimba County, Liberia, combined with a historical analysis. Following 14 years of civil war in the Republic of Liberia, more than 250,000 lives were lost and more than one-third of the population was displaced.
Editor’s Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Another study published in 2008 revealed that Liberian fighters exposed to sexual violence have more mental health disorders after war, according to ScienceDaily.
The study said: “Liberia’s wars since 1989 have cost tens of thousands of lives and left many people mentally and physically traumatized,” the authors write. “This conflict has been characterized by ethnic killings and massive abuses against the civilian population between 1989 and 1997, and again in 2003 and 2004.”
Science Daily: Kirsten Johnson, M.D., M.P.H., of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., and colleagues conducted a study to assess the prevalence and impact of war-related psychosocial trauma, including information on participation in the Liberian civil wars, exposure to sexual violence, social functioning, and mental health. The researchers surveyed 1,666 adults aged 18 or older using structured interviews and questionnaires. The survey was conducted in Liberia during a three-week period in May 2008.
In the Liberian adult household-based population, 40 percent met symptom criteria for major depressive disorder, 44 percent met symptom criteria for PTSD and 8 percent met criteria for social dysfunction. Thirty-three percent of the respondents reported serving time with fighting forces, and 33.2 percent of the former combatant respondents were women.
“Both female and male former combatants who experienced sexual violence had worse mental health outcomes than non-combatants and other former combatants who did not experience exposure to sexual violence,” the authors report.
Among women, 42.3 percent of former combatants experienced exposure to sexual violence, compared with 9.2 percent of non-combatants. Among men, 32.6 percent of former combatants experienced exposure to sexual violence, compared with 7.4 percent of non-combatants. Symptoms of depression, PTSD and thoughts of suicide were higher among former combatants than non-combatants, and higher among those who experienced sexual violence than those who did not.
Seventy-four percent of female former combatants who experienced sexual violence had symptoms of PTSD, compared with 44 percent who did not experience sexual violence. Among male former combatants, 81 percent who experienced sexual violence had symptoms of PTSD, compared with 46 percent who did not experience sexual violence. Male former combatants who experienced sexual violence also reported higher rates of depression symptoms and thoughts of suicide.
“Like their female counterparts, male former combatants who experienced sexual violence have worse mental health outcomes than both the general population and also other former combatants,” the authors write. “Rehabilitation programs that do not address this specific population risk failing a critically vulnerable group.”
“This unexpected finding suggests that standard post-conflict rehabilitation programs and gender-based programs will need to adjust current programming to take into account males who have experienced sexual violence, especially former combatants,” they conclude.