Violence and mental health - Colombia's cycle of violence

During medical consultations, MSF medical staff hear complaints about headaches, neck or back pains, "burning in the stomach", difficulty sleeping, and unexplained "fears" in patients who after physical examination appear healthy. These complaints, constantly repeated over time by the same patients, highlight a high incidence of psychosomatic disorders associated with the stress generated by the armed conflict.

In rural and semi-rural areas where conflict, isolation and insecurity generate violence, threats and fear among the population, MSF has noticed that patients express the need to tell their account of atrocities. These accounts detail the kidnapping and execution of men and women who were alleged sympathizers to one group or another, as well as the fear of being identified with armed actors because of the location of one's land and home.

Team members also hear desperate questions from women and children, such as Why did they kill him if he had nothing to do with the conflict?, If they wanted our land why did they take his life? and Why did they rape and kill our mothers, sisters or daughters...?

The constant fear of violence prevents many rural residents from being able to even consider the future.

As one psychologist described it &#— How can you really feel the owner of your own future when at any moment all could be lost at the point of a gun?.