Lancet: Mental health in conflict settings beset by misconceptions and NGO marketization of PTSD

In an article/letter featured in the 21 December e-issue of Lancet Sophie Mylan, Costanza Torre, Melissa Parker, and Tim Allen maintain that calls for a scaling up of mental health interventions in areas of conflict do not adequately consider acute limitations in the assessment of existing strategies (including indiscriminate and widely inconsistent use of the post-traumatic stress disorder label) or the damaging consequences of adopting universalised and externally generated preconceptions.

The authors maintain that: “Narratives of trauma have acquired a degree of power; their frequent appropriation and heavy marketisation by non-goverment organisations seeking to justify their operations have seriously affected people’s lives. The receipt of material support, skills training, and school fees depends on narratives fitting donor-backed conceptions. Those who can capitalise on these conceptions gain access to benefits and social leverage.”

And the authors conclude: “Current programmes are commonly misguided, eliciting symptoms of suffering they purport to address, and, in some instances, exacerbating social problems. There is an urgent need for humanitarians working in mental health to reflect critically on their activities, and engage with the lived realities of the people they seek to assist. Upscaling current practices will be just more shots in the dark.”

read the whole article HERE