Years after war in Yugoslavia thousands suffer from post-traumatic stress

Years after the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia thousands of people suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. A new study suggests their struggles will continue.

The study, to be published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, says many survivors remain plagued by a "fear of threat to safety and loss of control over life" - even though the guns and tanks went silent in 1995 and most victims live in relative safety today.

"These findings may have important implications for reconciliation efforts in postwar countries and effective interventions for traumatized war survivors," said the authors, seven psychologists and psychiatrists from across the ex-Yugoslavia, which disintegrated in a series of bloody conflicts that erupted in the early 1990s.

Based on interviews with 1,358 survivors conducted between March 2000 and July 2002, the experts examined the factors contributing to chronic depression among those who lost loved ones and homes or were otherwise traumatized.

The study - which focused on survivors in Belgrade, Serbia-Montenegro; Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Rijeka, Croatia; and Banja Luka, the capital of the Bosnian Serb mini-state within Bosnia - laid bare the horrors of war.

On average, the victims involved in the project suffered 12.6 "war-related events" ranging from combat and torture to being driven from their homes, living as refugees, witnessing the deaths or rapes of loved ones, being exposed to mass graves and enduring sniper fire, siege or aerial bombardment.

Previous studies have shown that at least 20 percent of people in the former Yugoslavia who lived through such events still suffer severe psychological trauma, the AP reports.

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