Mental states of adolescents exposedto war in Uganda: finding appropriatemethods of rehabilitation

Reintegration after war brings with it enormous challenges. One such challenge is to find appropriate methods of rehabilitation during the reintegration process. This article describes the rehabilitation, using traditional therapy, of formerly abducted adolescents exposed to war events who have experienced psychological distress. Methodology: In a cross-sectional design, 294 adolescents aged 12 to19 at three rehabilitation centres participated in the study. Two checklists specifically designed for the study were administered to the adolescents and social workers: the War Experiences Checklist and Psychological State Checklist. The War Experiences Checklist includes 54 different war events broadly categorised under nine themes: separation, role in combat, deprivations, rituals in captivity, injury and being a victim of violence, witness to traumatic war events, laying landmines and staging ambushes, participation in violence, and sexual abuse. The Psychological State Checklist consists of 22 items. Structured interviews were used with centre coordinators and traditional leaders to elicit information on strategies of rehabilitation and traditional therapies of rehabilitation respectively. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse data from the checklists while data from the interviews were triangulated and subjected to thematic examination in a multistage analyses.

Adolescents were exposed to disquieting war events and participated in dreadful atrocities. Consequently, many were psychologically distressed with unhealthy mental states that needed cleansing according to the native Acholi traditional practices of reconciliation and reintegration. Four rituals used in the rehabilitation and reintegration are critically examined in this paper.

Although mired in controversy over legitimacy, scope, and disagreement over procedures, the traditional structures for reconciliation and reintegration, such as the cleansing rituals, are still widely recognised and can play an important role in the process of reintegration at the local level.

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