The ten members of Colombia’s security forces who were released after more than 12 years in FARC captivity need years of psychological assistance to overcome their nightmare, said a specialized psychologist Wednesday.
According to Bruno Madrid, a psychologist who works with former hostages for years, the hostage nightmare is not over and the victims need long-term psychological attention.
“During and after the captivity, victims of kidnapping have an ongoing sensation that they are going to die. This occurs because no person is prepared to confront repeated death threats or situations of war like taking place in Colombia’s armed conflict,” Madrid told Colombia Reports.
“The victim is submitted to psychological abuse because he becomes a commodity, is constantly battered by repeated threats, aggressive language, degrading conditions, as well as constant monitoring. This generates feelings of helplessness and submission in the victim,” the mental health expert added.
To defend himself against the psychological abuse, a hostage victim “uses particular psychological resources that are already available and uses new ones that allow him to have some degree of control over himself and his environment. These resources … help them survive, either by changing their situation or making it psychologically more bearable.”
Following the release the former hostage is radically confronted with changes that have occurred in his social circle like the sickness or death of loved ones during the victim’s absence, said Madrid. “It is important that these things are told at the right time, respecting the necessity to be heard and the adaptive capacity of each individual.”
According to Madrid, the hostage victims must be offered “long-term and gradual” assistance as “many of these psychological scars will never heal.”
The absence of the necessary assistance “may trigger mental illnesses that do not only affect the individual, but his family and social circle. In many cases it occurs that people develop a psychological disability that impedes them from working or assimilating back into society,” said Madrid.
“Given the magnitude of the phenomenon of kidnapping in Colombia, intervention protocols have been designed for former hostages,” said the psychologist, who stressed the work of NGO Pais Libre, “which has spent 20 years working with victims of this scourge.”