Mental health work with people affected by state terrorism in Uruguay: a personal reflection on 25 years work

In this personal reflection, the author describes her mental health work and experience with people who have suffered from the political violence that occurred during the dictatorship in Uruguay, 1973 – 1985. She presents a personal account of the socio-political processes and her experience as a psychotherapist, from then until today. The author argues that the psychosocial trauma that has been inflicted by the state cannot be healed by only ‘mental health’ work, as the process for reparation and justice in Uruguay has been very slow and painful. Furthermore, she has observed that the impunity granted perpetrators may re-victimise survivors, and further damage their mental health. Psychological work with people affected by state terrorism requires interdisciplinary analysis and, as the author argues, mental health professionals should join in the struggles of their patients. In Uruguay, as elsewhere in Latin America, psychotherapists have formed organisations to assist the survivors, and raised their voice within the public discourse. This has contributed to breaking the silence surrounding events, and has helped to come to terms with the psychological effects of state organised violence. In her work, the author has learned the importance of exchange of information between colleagues, including colleagues from other countries.

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Robaina, Celia Maria