"CONDEMNED - Mental health in African countries in crisis"
The gutted Euro Bank building in Liberia's capital Monrovia has become a home to former child soldiers of Liberia's civil wars. Thousands of Liberia's children were conscripted to fight in the country's bloody civil wars between 1989 and 2003. Emboldened by drugs and sadistic commanders, they killed and mutilated their fellow citizens in conflicts that left 250,000 dead. At the end of the war, thousands were left leaderless and homeless in the country's capital Monrovia. Shunned by the civilian population around them they formed their own communities. They continue to call each other by their war names, and respect ranks held in a war everyone else is trying to forget. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is rife in these former child soldier ghettos. Time has not healed the deep psychological scars that the violence has left. The impacts of trauma can be especially severe when inflicted as a child. PTSD can cause, amongst other symptoms, aggression, depression, sleeplessness, and flashbacks of the traumatic events experienced. Drugs helped these former child soldiers commit atrocities. Without the intensive mental health assistance they require, many of them now take drugs to help them forget. The marijuana and heroin they smoke numbs the pain, and allows a deep dreamless sleep where the faces of those they have mutilated are blurred and their screams silenced. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos. Liberia, January/February 2013.