Do not forget culture when implementing mental health interventions for violence survivors

Cien Saude Colet. 2017 Sep;22(9):3053-3059. doi: 10.1590/1413-81232017229.12982016.


Armed conflict has positioned Colombia as the country with the second highest internal displacement of citizens. This situation has forced government projects and international cooperation agencies to intervene to mitigate the impact of violence; however, the coping strategies implemented by the country's minorities are still unknown. The study objective is to describe the coping strategies and their relation with mental health within Afro-descendant culture in Colombia and the effects that armed conflict has on these coping mechanisms, through a phenomenological study involving focus groups and interviews with experts. Rituals and orality have a healing function that allow Afro-Colombian communities to express their pain and support each other, enabling them to cope with loss. Since the forced displacement, these traditions have been in jeopardy. Armed conflict prevents groups from mourning, generating a form of latent pain. Afro-Colombians require community interventions that create similar spaces for emotional support for the bereaved persons in the pre-conflict period. Thus, it is essential to understand the impact of this spiritual and ritualistic approach on mental health issues and the relevance of narrative and community interventions for survivors.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Armed Conflicts / psychology*
  • Black People / psychology
  • Colombia
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Middle Aged
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Violence / psychology*