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  • Writer's pictureOgunibe Fredrick Anuoluwapo

War's Unseen Wounds

The Effects of War/Conflicts on Public Mental Health: Short and Long-term Impacts on Nations


Abstract

In the intricate weave of international relations, the ramifications of war and conflicts transcend geopolitical boundaries, leaving an enduring imprint on the mental health of nations. Approaching this topic through a lens that values interconnectedness, empathy, and a commitment to cultivating a world that prioritizes the well-being of its inhabitants.


In the aftermath of conflict, the indelible scars etched upon a nation's psyche often overshadowed by the visible destruction of infrastructure and loss of life. However, the silent pandemic of mental health challenges induced by war quietly permeates communities long after the echoes of gunfire have ceased. While the immediate toll of post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression is observable, the enduring consequences extend well beyond the initial aftermath. Research indicates that individuals experiencing of war have continue to experience deteriorating mental health even six years after the conflict has officially ended


Introduction

In the realm of international relations, the repercussions of armed conflicts extend beyond the visible scars on nations and the tragic loss of lives, they leave an indelible mark on the socio- economic, political, and psychological fabric of nations. War strips us of the later accretions of civilization, and lays bare the primal man in each of us. It compels us once more to be heroes who cannot believe in their own death; it stamps strangers as enemies, whose death is to be brought about or desired, it is to tells us to disregard the death of those we love (Sigmund Freud, 1915).


This paper delves into the dual impact of war, dissecting both its immediate short-term consequences and the long-term effects on the nations involved, we seek to understand the interconnected dynamics between short-term and long-term consequences. By dissecting the complexities of this dual impact, I aspire to contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the multifaceted challenges nations face during war, ultimately aiming to foster dialogue and strategies that prioritize the well-being and resilience of societies affected by war. The tragedy of Srebrenica will haunt our history forever.” Kofi Annan, 1999.)


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Mental health is created by our interactions with people and events in the world around us. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community” (WHO, 2001). One of the most traumatic events that may face individuals in their life is the war and conflict. These represent dangerous crises and disasters encountered by nations and people in general, and include extreme aggressive events in the form of violence, economic failure, social disturbance, and high mortality rates (Samia & Shaheen, 2013)


In the recent years, many of these psycho-social problems have been driven by war-conflict. These have shaped the people’s attitudes, politics, government policies, and population movements and migrations. This will paper will help to unlearn and learn on post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD and to explore the presentation of the various physical and mental clinical syndromes related to war- trauma on the nations, who throughout the ages and the consequent health-seeking behaviour of the peoples affected with war or conflict in this regard. Describing how chronic warfare and also the effects of war/conflict on public mental health with the short and long-term impacts on nations, as a lived experience, creates significant social and psychological distress which will show how trauma, as seen in conflict and post-conflict settings in some nations, causes not only significant psycho-social problems but also medically well-defined psychiatric syndromes such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression which cause much morbidity and retard development in many people in nations affected by war/conflict. The most common conditions are depression, anxiety and psychosomatic problems such as insomnia, or back and stomach aches” (WHO, 2001).


Significance and Purpose of the Paper

During recent years, a number of nations have been subjected to frequent episodes of war and conflict, resulting in different psychological consequences among the general population. Several studies have investigated this impact. This is to review the research findings about the effects of war/conflicts on public mental health: short and long-term impacts on nations also psycho-social support provided to those affected.


Literature Review

Nations which have suffered from numerous traumatic wars and conflicts, which have had an impact on the mental health of their general population, and many studies have investigated the bad psychological consequences. Studies on the countrywide impact of conflict show that affected countries and populations adjust relatively quickly and often return to their pre-conflict growth trajectories (Davis and Weinstein, 2002; Brakman 2004; Miguel and Roland, 2011). The growing body of research at the micro-level finds that conflict situations cause more mortality and disability than any major disease, destroy communities and families, and disrupt the development of the social and economic fabric of nations (Justino 2009, 2012)



Researchers have estimated the causal effects of war exposure on soldiers mental health. Their findings suggest that deployment to combat zones, exposure to enemy fire and to dead, dying, or wounded people, generally cause a decrease in mental health status and raise the risk of suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) or depression (Gade and Wenger 2011; Cesur 2013).


Chronic warfare, as a lived experience, creates significant social and psychological distress in a nation, it shows how trauma, as seen in conflict/post-conflict settings in nation, causes not only significant psycho-social problems but also medically well-defined psychiatric syndromes such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression which cause much retard development in many communities.


The dilemma of trauma driven by appetitive aggression in and portends to retard socio-economic development with trans-generational perpetuation.

Discussion

This has reviewed research findings about the impact of war and conflict on mental health on a nation. These situations have been particularly prevalent in some nations, and the corresponding prevalence of a wide variety of psychological symptoms and disorders in their population has been widely documented. Among the prevailing bad psychological consequences, PTSD and major depression disorders were the most serious complications reported in the general population. Some psychological manifestations, like anxiety, irritability, emotional instability, social instability, cognitive disturbance, and behavioural disturbance, were also reported. The most vulnerable are seldom considered when the rumblings of war occur. According to the National Institutes of Health, the direct correlation between the degree of trauma and the amount of the psychological problems is consistent across a number of studies. The greater the exposure to trauma both physical and psychological the more pronounced are the symptoms.


Psychologically, trauma leaves an impression upon the mind and physiological makeup of each person it encounters. Regardless of one’s age or intellectual quotient, we know that the ramifications of being exposed to a traumatic event can leave a deep and lasting impression.

In today’s wars, civilians suffer the most the types short time and long term of war traumas experienced can be grouped into: physical, psychological, social, and ecological torture and these include the following: physical torture, beatings, kicking, gunshots, bombs, bullying, landmines, cuttings, tying and blindfolding, child soldiering, disfigurements, burnings, forced labour, sexual abuse (rape, public rape, gang rape, sexual slavery), defilement, mass killings, ethnic killings, psychological torture, threats, accusations, abductions, mock executions, incommunicado, detentions, humiliations, witnessing, deprivations social torture, destruction of property and livestock, human trafficking, drug abuse, substance use and abuse, denial, displacement, community and family break-ups, ecological torture, natural disaster, epidemics, destruction of infrastructures.


Wars cause physical, psychological, social, and ecological destruction which they aim to destroy people’s identity, culture, beliefs, language, food. In order to make them submit to newly imposed ones. Wars destroy society infrastructure and systems e.g. government, families, communities, economy, environment. These consequences could play a significant role in developing the psychological symptoms and disorders among the general population.


Conclusion and Recommendations

There has been many wars, persecutions, and traumatization the world over. From a medical point of view, we see many diseases and behaviours as a consequence of the chronic warfare and persecution in a nation. This has shown how the trauma, as seen in wars, continues to cause much mental distress.


Photo by Nel Mel on Unsplash


Nations that have suffered from war and conflict are recommended to have some centres and agencies with professionals, funding and equipment to provide them with their basic needs, social support, and good screening. It is important to develop rehabilitation programmes with highly educated professions to provide the population with good coping strategies and re-involvement in society. Also, it is important the media should play an intensive role during and after wartime in developing programmes that help people to adapt and return to their own life and follow the approach to heal up wars unseen wounds.


A number of issues have emerged from the literature on the prevalence and pattern of mental health effects of war and conflict. Its is important to providing mental health psycho social support to people affected by war, which helps to stabilize their mental state and avoid abnormal behaviours. Introducing people affected by war to basic psychosocial support services, through mental health counseling and support for those affected helping them to manage psychosocial challenges, ensuring to support the process through psychological first aid, psycho-education and recreational activities.


The steps to this process are as follows; Steps to psychological first aid (safety, calm, connectedness, self – efficacy need), steps to psycho-education (providing insight, ideas, valid research about cause of illness, build up a problem-solving skill, building assertiveness, ensure good communication), recreational activities which are structured and unstructured interventions (unstructured approach; sports, story telling, songs, music, dance, painting) and (structured approach; live structured approach is to attend to a people needs which creates and increases the feeling of safety, respect and control).


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