Although it is commonly accepted that the majority of people "cope" with violence without developing a mental disorder, enduring intense suffering significantly reduces their daily functioning.
When speaking to psychologists, many people report feeling constant fear and anxiety, and react to it with insomnia, muscular tension, sweating, dizziness, palpitations, vertigo, or gastric problems. Those who recently experienced violence remain hypervigilant and experience anguish when they hear a motorcycle pass by, a dog's bark, or footsteps in the street.
Half of the consultations done by MSF psychologists in urban slums in Sincelejo and Ovejas are triggered by experiences of violence. Of those, 41% are related to acts of violence perpetrated by armed groups involved in the conflict. Many of these patients have directly witnessed the murder of a family member (37%), or have had close relatives disappear as a result of forced displacement (10%).
One of the most common consequences of violence is having to accept the death or disappearances of relatives and loved ones. Loss and mourning are some of the most common sources of suffering identified by MSF psychologists. The most complicated mourning processes are those in which the relatives have witnessed the murder of family members.
My mother cannot sleep... if she hears a motorbike out in the street she wakes up and cannot fall asleep again (...) the thing is that last week we had to pick up our brother-in-law. He was almost unrecognisable. They had beaten him up, and his head was chopped off. I can't get that image out of my head. — A young man living in an urban slum