How the invisible scars of Liberia’s civil war still haunt society

During Liberia’s civil war, young men picked up rifles when they had nothing left. Morris Matadi was one of them. He was recruited as a child soldier after rebels killed his family and put a rifle in his hands, forcing him to take an active role in the war. The memories still haunt him today.

But he is now helping others to overcome trauma.

Liberian society still struggles today to confront its dark past. In the aftermath of the civil war, ex-combatants became the black sheep of society because of their actions during the war.

But they are also victims as they suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They’re afraid of losing their reputation as men so do not speak publicly about the psychological wounds that war inflicted on them.

However, many people in Liberia do not believe that medical treatment is possible for mental illnesses. The government itself only introduced a mental health policy in 2009 and a mental health law in 2017.

With few mental health resources available in Liberia and very little information available about how and where to find such help, people in crisis often turn to churches or traditional healers to address their problems.

In extreme cases, those without strong support networks can end up homeless and roaming the streets, often the subject of pity, ridicule and fear. Others use drugs to escape.

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