20 March 2017

South Africa: Mental Health, the Missing Link in Sustainable Peacebuilding


As communities across the world prepare to accommodate more than 65-million refugees fleeing communities decimated by war and poverty, we need new ways of responding to the associated mental health challenges in order to prevent traumatic memory from crippling families and communities in decades to come. By FRIEDERIKE BUBENZER.

Resisting the unfolding political situation in East Germany, my grandfather fled his home town of Bautzen in 1953 at the age of 45, carrying only a small suitcase. All his earthly possessions stayed behind: a home, the longstanding family business, friends, family. His wife and four-year-old daughter (my mother) joined him in a refugee camp in Berlin a few days later. The young family eventually settled in Hannover, gradually building a new home; trying desperately to recreate the lost heimat my grandfather would pine for until his death in 1980.

Crippled by the loss of home and hearth, depression soon followed. The joyous man, so respected by his employees and loved by his stammtisch brothers, began to fade away. Melancholy consumed him, casting a long shadow over his wife, daughter and, indirectly and much later, my sister and me.

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