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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 13  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 216-234

The effects of war: local views and priorities concerning psychosocial and mental health problems as a result of collective violence in Burundi

psychiatrist and cultural anthropologist. From 2005 to 2008 he was mental health advisor for Health Net TPO, based in Burundi. Currently he is the senior mental health officer with UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, in Geneva

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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This paper explores how people in Burundi view the impact of the past civil war on their lives and wellbeing. The methodology consisted of focus group discussions (n = 104), including participatory ranking techniques, and key informant interviews with traditional healers (n = 8). Respondents saw economic decline (poverty, loss of livelihoods), worsened health and nutritional status as major issues, but also mentioned social aspects (erosion of mechanisms for social support and conflict resolution), and psychological aspects (sadness, grief). When invited to elaborate on the mental health and psychosocial consequences of war, the respondents mentioned a range of issues related to depressive states, fear/anxiety, grief, madness, and substance abuse. These findings lend support to the notion that mental health and psychosocial wellbeing need to be given due attention in the reconstruction of Burundian society. The findings corroborate the conceptualising of programmes for mental health and psychosocial support as multi-layered approaches with varying goals: to promote social cohesion, to strengthen family support, to help people deal with issues related to loss, grief and sadness, and to support individuals with severe mental disorders. The design of such interventions should take into account what people themselves find important in their lives and social settings.

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