The psycho-social trauma of the protracted civil war on the people of South Sudan

Posted: September 24, 2016 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Columnists, David Matiop Gai, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By David Matiop Gai, Juba, South Sudan

John Garang

John Garang’s prophecy

September 24, 2016 (SSB) — The republic of south Sudan doesn’t want to treat mental disabilities that had happened to the public for many years. May be the word mental health services seem to this nation (people) as a minor case. If it is so, who is a man or a woman in South Sudan without brain/mind and problems associated with? And if the word mental health is a term confusing our little knowledge with/of biological and social science studies, just call it psycho-social.

The word psycho: mean crazy, insane, slang, or a combining form representing psyche (psychological) and psychological (psychoanalysis) in compound words. The Greek origin “psyche” means breath, spirit, soul, akin, mind, mental activities of a person. The word social: mean relating to society, relating to interaction of people, relating to living in a community. Social refers to characteristics of living organism of human society, interaction, applied to population, and human behaviors.

Psycho-social treatment is all about human normality, goodness, just, peace, and loving when disrupt mind is treated. Mental disorder/problems do occur in war field like South Sudan but when a war is stops, the first targeted areas are retreatment of human mind. Fifty years of civil war, lots of terrible things had happened to South Sudanese people, like drops of bombs were falling from the sky on innocent children, women, and men, people being tied in sacks and thrown into River Nile alive while others were watching their beloved one being humiliated, and eliminated on earth, young girls were forced to sexual activities, women were raped, men were used by the same sex, and people were been slaughtered like animals, the worst part of all even we animals keepers, we didn’t kill animals in front of others,  all these events destroyed the mind of the current living population.

Things that were not been experienced in other parts of the world and things that could not be tolerated, Even though you are God and you were been in South – North Sudan civil war from 1955 – 2005, you are traumatized. But little knowledge hindered services to the people. Being traumatized simply means to cause somebody experience severe emotional chock or distress or sudden and terrible, internally disturbing in a way you are unable to forget it. The other factor was turning tribes of South Sudan against each other, a chronic hatred among the tribes and it’s becomes a psycho-social problem. Notice this, “they are forgiven but it will take long to forgot” officially mentioned, during the declaration day of South Sudan independence on 9th –July 2011.

Again few days ago on Miraya FM, a well-known media in the Republic of South Sudan was announcing some discussion issues of mental health services by brainstorming the new nation but to the best of my surprised, I heard that there was a director within the ministry of health or call it Juba teaching hospital, leading the mental health care programs and he was connected on phone to Miraya FM to tell the public all about mental health problems associated with mental disorder, sleeplessness, quick-temper, etc but to make it wors , the man disappeared and his silence over radio annoyed the listeners until one temper to tell the representor on the studio that these issues of phone connection online need to be avoided because some people escapes questions from the public or they may not even give right answers. To me it sound bad, and I asked my own self lots of series of questions. It was so panic and I could not rest in mind and my first question was, did the media not inform the man in advance or not?

Look! It was not like that, the media informed the man, it was the man who discharged himself with other business seems to him being an important and neglected millions of his fellow human being disrupted and confuses in mental problems. The matter was a disguised of truth from the listeners and some people said as I heard, “there is no even a single psychiatrist in the Republic of South Sudan”. They just assumed, it is not true, who did the statistics of psychologists? We have MA and PHD holders in that professional position. The fact remain the same from the top to the bottom of South Sudan that it is totally  an ignorant about the importance of mental health services and how this counseling process could help our country’s risks behaviors we are now in as we were overwhelmingly scared by certain activities  population are doing in the South in general.

 For you as a reader to understand why I say South Sudan is behind the world in response to mental health services, briefly, I’m saying, in 2007, we formed a national organization called South Sudan Mental Health Care and services, (SSMHS) in collaboration with Africa Mental Health Foundation (AMHF) to lunched a great campaign across ten states of South Sudan but it could not come to reality because the organization was not yet registered but before South Sudan independence on 9th July2011, Africa Mental Health Foundation invited our staffs for the regional conference in Nairobi and it was attended by seven psychologists who  studied in Day Star University and Christian Teachings Community College. The South Sudanese psychologists participated well comparing themselves to those who have long experiences in mental health services in East Africa and other parts of Africa such as South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and Somalia.

Again, Shortly, after Independence Day, we tried our level best to welcome a famous Dr. in psychiatry across the region of Africa from the University of Nairobi to train our officials in different departments such as hospital, prison, police, child welfare and social development, and ministry of education but to do so, it need us to licensed our organization first before its operations but when we come for licensing, a certain director said,  “the word mental” is not constituted in the constitutions of the Republic of South Sudan, so I can’t give you a license, it is out of law”, imagine he designed for us other name which distorted our vision, aims, objectives, and strategic planning of the organization, and when we realized it later on, the problem was not just a masterminded from the director himself, it was right far-from the parliament, from the final man and woman who are so called lawmakers.

Those are the problems we have, some people are holding key public positions that could not profits and benefits the people in this nation, and question is, why do you as eyes of the people neglected the important part of your own life while you best set know properly that South Sudan fought the enemy for more than four decades to gain its independence and freedom, how do you think generations of wars and long suffering who involves memories in such situation will settle their minds in normal condition?

As a social worker, what I know about South Sudan, mental health issues have raised to a greatest average of 99.9% of whom the whole population are out of their senses because three duration of wars, the war of Anya Nya I for 18 years, the one of Anya Nya II for 11 years and SPLM/A for 22 years had contributed much disastrous damages into our minds. Human mental health cases in the entire South Sudan are traumatized and totally rooted in mental problems socially, mentally, culturally, economically, financially, spiritually, ecologically, and environmentally. The causes of mental disorder were war impacts and these are as:

  1. Post war trauma, War crisis, Pollution of guns, Situational trauma,
  2. Family dysfunctional such as alcoholics, drug addiction, death, poverty, unemployment, child abuse, divorce, and polygamy.

The world in its advancement protects mind of human being from the servers’ damages such as abuses of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, rape, killing, protection of child mind injured from the childhood, beating/tortured, drug abuse-opium, unemployment, terrible epidemic diseases:  such as cancer, Ebola virus, bird flow, HIV?AIDS, natural and manmade disasters. The entire world is always giving attention to all these dangerous events because these diseases cause terrible effect into human mind. South Sudan was been fighting Arabs for all those long years, and the government and local authorities now need to rehabilitate human mind in the Republic of south Sudan but the problem which I realized is so quite clear, that mental health service in south Sudan is unwanted social services.

People in this nation confuse mental issues with medical issues. Well there is little part in medical help with mental problems but not inches of maximum; it is when the psychologist realized properly that the patient needs medical application and when you take a person who is suffering from mental illness to the hospital, the doctor will do nothing to him/her because two things are contrary to each other. A medical doctor can do no help to mental disorder because he/she had specialized in medicines and if you insist to take your mental disturbed person to medical doctor, he/she will just inject a person to sleep and awake, and no treatment will be provide.

Such people need social worker to explore their background until the social worker will refer the patient if there is problem related to medical procedures. The same thing will happen to spiritual cursed person. Medical doctor can do nothing to traditional cursed and psychological affected people. It is a social worker responsibility who may know the person’s condition and if the social worker realized that it is spiritual problem, the client can be send to a gifted pastor who do casting demon possessed spirit.  Not all pastors in churches are to pray for spiritual problems. We make it wrong. Pastors are gifted differently and we need to be aware of that because majority of our population are Christians.

This is very important for us to know that we should not always blaming medical doctors in South Sudan; it is a work of ten people only including doctors and these are: Counselors, psychiatrists, gifted pastors, clinical psychologists, program assistants, psychologists, counseling psychologists, social workers, and guidance counselors. Majority of people think that traumatized people are those who walked along the roadside naked being the only affected innocent! No, if I play the symptoms here, you may found yourself in one of the traumatic sector of mental disorder. Ok for example, if you has a constantly back and neck pain, you are already affected because your hummus in the body (iron & vitamin) reacted high and is no longer normal. If you always complaint of forgetting your phone, you are affected, etc. So the well-dressed men on the street with these symptoms are also affected.

Recommendation:  I suggested that South Sudan will not be normal in social life in term of everybody being involves in mental disabilities and if they don’t take care on mental health matters, spirit of unconcern, pride, killing in offices, on streets, poor performance of pupils in schools, families disappointment/disagreement, corruption, disunity, and suicide becomes the final decisions being applied by mental disorder person as the best way of doing things. Therefore, there is a serious need of counselors, social workers, clinical psychologists, and psychologists to be employ in police, prisons, child welfare and social development, army, hospitals, and schools so that to reduce risk behaviors of the civil population in this glorious new nation.

The author is a co-founder of National Mental Health Care Organization (NMHCO); He holds Bachelor degree in Social Work and Social Administration from SSCUST, Bachelor of Theology from CLT, Bungoma, Kenya/Kalispell, USA, and a fellow researcher. He can be reach at

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made are the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing.

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