Post-conflict communities suffer 'massive increases' in mental illness

Posted on May 15, 2014

TIMOR-LESTE: New research has suggested repeated violence could escalate the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression in post-conflict communities.

The six year study surveyed more than 1000 locals in Timor-Leste to measure the prevalence of mental disorders. Over the six years, researchers found rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) increased sevenfold. Depression and anxiety rates rose nearly three times as much.

Lead researcher Professor Derrick Silove from the University of New South Wales began the study in 2004, four years after Timor-Leste’s conflict with Indonesian occupation.

To their surprise, in the large sample that we studied - over one thousand people - we found that rates of PTSD and depression were remarkably low compared to other conflict-affected countries," said Professor Silove.

He theorised that the comparatively low rates of mental illness were due to the country’s recent independence from Indonesia, and the general sense of optimism that ran through the county.

He said these positive events might have helped to mitigate the trauma they were exposed to, but when the team returned to Timor-Leste six years later, the results were startlingly different. "We expected at least a mild or significant increase in mental disorder. But actually what we found was a massive increase."

Category(s):Mental Health in Asia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) / Trauma / Complex PTSD

Source material from SBS Australia