Integrating Mental Health and Psychosocial Support into Transitional Justice in the Gambia: Practitioner Perspectives

In countries dealing with legacies of gross and systematic rights violations, healing is central to individuals, communities and society coming to terms with past abuses and preventing their recurrence in the future. As such, it is a key component of transitional justice. The report begins by outlining CSVR’s contextual approach to mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) in transitional contexts, which is informed by its work with the African Union, African transitional justice practitioners, individuals and communities affected by past abuses, and other stakeholders on the continent. MHPSS is vital, as a key component of the AUTJP is promoting individual and collective healing, as well as non-recurrence of conflict and violations. The aim of MHPSS is to promote the psychosocial well-being of individuals or collectives by allowing them to process what has happened to them, release the anger, pain and resentment related to this, potentially forgive those who are responsible for the violation, let go of the need for revenge and begin to rebuild their lives. It can also help promote reconciliation by allowing people to understand, acknowledge and accept the various roles they may have played in past abuses and how they and others have been affected by them. Through MHPSS interventions, individuals and collectives can have the opportunity to begin their healing processes, with the result that they may be less likely to perpetrate future abuses and thus help break the cycle of violence seen in many countries. The report then briefly describes The Gambia’s transitional justice process to date and CSVR’s engagements with this process in collaboration with its partners in the country. It concludes by presenting a range of lessons these practitioners have learnt in the process of designing and implementing locally guided, tailored and sustainable activities that amplify local knowledge and practices, rather than dampening them with external expertise. These lessons were learnt through reflection and adaptation, as part of an ongoing learning process that continues to this day.