Psychosocial impacts among adolescents disengaged from Colombian illegal armed groups and challenges to their attention
Central European Journal of Public Health
Our study focused on the impacts on health among adolescents who became members of illegal armed groups in Colombia and their attention within the specialized government programme as seen by the professionals who work directly with them. Previous research indicates that those victims of armed violence are usually highly affected on their emotional and social health, but with appropriate and timely support more serious mental health problems can be prevented. Therefore, the care provided to them
... should be based on broader and holistic approaches. This cross-sectional study used the qualitative method based on semi-structured interviews with 42 professionals, and internal reports on the health condition of 165 adolescents, 57 (34.5%) females and 108 (65.5%) males, as a secondary source of information. All information was anonymous and confidential. The interviews with professionals and their reports demonstrated that about a half of the 165 adolescents, 35 of 57 (61.4%) females and 48 of 108 (44.4%) males, suffered from serious symptoms requiring therapeutic and psychiatric attention. About 20% of the adolescents presented clinically important post-traumatic stress symptoms, 27% admitted sexual abuse and 29% psychoactive substance abuse. The professionals stressed various obstacles to the attention of these multiple impacts related both to the administrative and institutional issues and the particular characteristics of this population. Our findings show the complexity of the psychosocial impacts among adolescent victims of the Colombian armed conflict and their attention. Highly trained professionals and alternative strategies including active listening, observation and art therapy activities seem to be vital for an effective care. The lessons learned from the Colombian reintegration programme serve as important inputs to be considered when attending children and adolescents from conflict-stricken areas also in other contexts.