Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Programs and Reconciliation: A Case Study in Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • Author / Creator
    Keskin, Emrah
  • Since the mid-1990s, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) programs have become a common means of peacebuilding following civil war, alongside re-structuring political institutions, transitional justice initiatives and refugee return. Psychology research suggests that MHPSS programs are beneficial to individuals who have been exposed to civil war, reducing their trauma symptoms and transforming their attitudes towards reconciliation initiatives. Building on these findings, I investigate whether MHPSS programs’ work with individual participants leads to a larger resonance at the social and political level, especially in terms of reconciliation. To understand the socio-political impact of such psychological work, I have conducted a case study of Bosnia and Herzegovina, interviewing project managers, administrators, and counselors who administer MHPSS programs across the country. My findings suggest that MHPSS programs help participants overcome the anger, fear, and mistrust borne out of the traumatic war experiences. However, my research also shows that negative emotions are still prevalent among Bosnians who have traumatic experiences of war. Moreover, nationalist parties exploit these negative emotions, undermining the work of MHPSS programs and thwarting social and national reconciliation efforts. Despite more than 25 years since the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords, there has been little progress towards reconciliation at the national level as ethnic polarization continues to dominate national politics. Based on four months of fieldwork, 21 semi-structured interviews and desk research, I argue that MHPSS holds the potential to transform Bosnian society and instill reconciliation at the individual, social, and national level. However, the current socio-political structures, in which the major political parties perpetuate ethnic division and impede individual and societal healing, counter the MHPSS efforts and hamper their ability to help advance the process of reconciliation.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2022
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.