Report : TRAUMA AND MENTAL HEALTH IN ZIMBABWE

TRAUMA AND MENTAL HEALTH IN ZIMBABWE

This paper falls into three sections.

The first section provides a brief overview of organised violence and torture in Zimbabwe, mainly drawing on statistics from the 2001-2009 period, but in some cases going back further, Figures showing the kinds of abuse inflicted and its frequency provide evidence of the extent to which Zimbabweans have suffered during this period of complex emergency, when the infrastructure of the country has collapsed around them. Further surveys are presented to support the argument that damage to the psychological well-being of the population is likely to be one of the most serious and long-lasting effects of the ongoing crisis. Information gathered from war veterans underlines the persistant impact of unresolved trauma after the liberation war and figures relating to the gukurahundi, to elections and to Operation Murambatsvina show how specific events have increased the level of mental suffering. Furthermore, the effects of organized violence and torture in Zimbabwe must be contextualized within the global HIV epidemic (of which Zimbabwe is an epicentre) and the social effects of economic decline and mass impoverishment.

It is also argued that attention must be paid to the psychological well-being of those who have suffered indirectly , particularly women and children, as research suggests that the impact of violence and torture extends beyond those directly victimised. A second category of indirect‘ sufferers includes the impact of these forms of suffering on mental health professionals and human rights workers.

The effect of organised violence and torture on the social fabric of communities and the disempowerment which results both from individual suffering and from the fragmentation of relationships and systems which might have provided support or offered resistance is acknowledged as another important area for attention.

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