Sub-Saharan Africa

Towards Making Psychosocial Rehabilitation a Reality: Meeting the Needs of Survivors of Gang Violence in Manenberg

Posted By: • December 1st, 2015

Upholding the rights of victims of gang violence, to victim rehabilitation (legal, social, medical and psychological), is a responsibility that both government and civil society are called upon to honour. During 2013 at the height of gang violence in Manenberg, the Trauma Centre, the Manenberg Development Co-ordinating Structure (MDCS) and the Western Cape Department of Social Development (WC DSD) partnered to provide victim rehabilitation services to the community.

The Trauma Centre implemented the Manenberg Trauma- focused Psychosocial Intervention (MTPI) which brought together community workers and mental health practitioners to provide trauma counselling and support (psychological first aid) to a range of stakeholders. During its implementation (September 2013 to May 2014), the intervention reached 13,047 people through home visits, information sessions, trauma debriefing and group counselling. Through the MTPI, 893 clients benefited from individual counselling.

This research report is an initiative of the Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture aimed toward increasing its knowledge and understanding of victim rehabilitation in South Africa. This is achieved through the exploration of experiences of trauma counsellors, trauma support officers, referring agents and community leaders during the implementation of the psychosocial intervention.

A mixed method case study research design focused on the following research question further explored through three sub questions:

To what extent was the Manenberg Trauma-focused Psychosocial Intervention (MTPI) useful in meeting the victim rehabilitation needs of survivors of gang violence in Manenberg?

  1. What are trauma responses of survivors of gang violence in Manenberg?
  2. What were the experiences of the trauma support officers and counsellors regarding the usefulness of the Manenberg Trauma-focused Psychosocial Intervention (MTPI)?
  3. What were the experiences of referring agents (community leaders, school principals, liaison teachers,) regarding the usefulness of the Manenberg Trauma- focused Psychosocial Intervention (MTPI)?

The main findings suggest that victim rehabilitation begins to address the need for psychosocial services in spite of dire, unsafe conditions within the community. However, the usefulness of such services is undermined by impunity, lack of resources and financial instability:

1. Ongoing violence is the biggest threat to victim rehabilitation.

2. The strong linkage between ongoing violence and continuous trauma has implications for the development of appropriate, context-specific, community-based mental health programmes.

3. Inadequate physical, human and financial resources increase the risk of secondary victimisation because it impacts on the appropriateness, accessibility and sustainability of trauma-focused psychosocial interventions, in communities affected by ongoing gang violence.

4. Victim rehabilitation requires stronger collaboration amongst education, health, social development, safety and security role players in order to enhance the quality of the trauma-focused psychosocial interventions in contexts of ongoing violence.

5. The accessibility and sustainability of trauma-focused psychosocial interventions are strengthened when people from the community (such as the trauma support officers) become part of the psychosocial team of service providers.

6. Parents are better equipped to help their children when they are supported to deal with their own trauma.

7. Educators, parents, and child carers have a limited understanding, knowledge and skills about the impact of trauma caused by gang violence on children’s cognitive, social and physical well-being.

8. Unsafe conditions, exacerbated by a climate of impunity, compromise the working conditions of psychosocial workers. This, in turn negatively impacts on the ability to provide quality mental health services.

9. Unsafe conditions, exacerbated by a climate of impunity, compromise the trauma recovery of survivors

10. Financial instability of community-based mental health programmes is a threat to victims’ right to rehabilitation. This impact negatively on the accessibility and sustainability of trauma-focused mental health services in Manenberg.

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