Mental Health and Psychosocial Problems and Needs of Violence Survivors in the Colombian Pacific Coast: A Qualitative Study in Buenaventura and Quibdó

Prehosp Disaster Med. 2018 Dec;33(6):567-574. doi: 10.1017/S1049023X18000523. Epub 2018 Jul 26.


Introduction/ProblemFor more than 60 years, Colombia experienced an armed conflict involving government forces, guerrillas, and other illegal armed groups. Violence, including torture and massacres, has caused displacement of entire rural communities to urban areas. Lack of information on the problems displaced communities face and on their perceptions on potential solutions to these problems may prevent programs from delivering appropriate services to these communities. This study explores the problems of Afro-Colombian survivors from two major cities in Colombia; the activities they do to take care of themselves, their families, and their community; and possible solutions to these problems.

Methods: This was a qualitative, interview-based study conducted in Quibdó and Buenaventura (Colombia). Free-list interviews and focus groups explored the problems of survivors and the activities they do to take care of themselves, their families, and their community. Key-informant interviews explored details of the identified mental health problems and possible solutions.

Results: In Buenaventura, 24 free-list interviews, one focus group, and 17 key-informant interviews were completed. In Quibdó, 29 free-list interviews, one focus group, and 15 key-informant interviews were completed. Mental health problems identified included: (1) problems related to exposure to torture/violent events; (2) problems with adaptation to the new social context; and (3) problems related to current poverty, lack of employment, and ongoing violence. These problems were similar to trauma symptoms and features of depression and anxiety, as described in other populations. Solutions included psychological help, talking to friends/family, relying on God's help, and getting trained in different task or jobs.

Conclusion: Afro-Colombian survivors of torture and violence described mental health problems similar to those of other trauma-affected populations. These results suggest that existing interventions that address trauma-related symptoms and current ongoing stressors may be appropriate for improving the mental health of survivors in this population. Santaella-TenorioJ, Bonilla-EscobarFJ, Nieto-GilL, Fandiño-LosadaA, Gutiérrez-MartínezMI, BassJ, BoltonP. Mental health and psychosocial problems and needs of violence survivors in the Colombian Pacific Coast: a qualitative study in Buenaventura and Quibdó. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2018;33(6):567-574.

Keywords: AFRODES National Association of Displaced Afro Colombians; displacement; psychology social; qualitative research; torture; violence.

MeSH terms

  • Armed Conflicts*
  • Colombia
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Violence*