Alternate Approach: Community Based Mental Health Services and Implications for Peacebuilding in Myanmar

Degree Name

MA in Conflict Transformation

First Advisor

Paula Greene

Second Advisor

John Ungerleider


This paper investigates the potential for community based mental health organizations staffed by lay people to positively influence the mental health of communities affected by conflict. Based on in-depth, qualitative interviews with experts on mental health and Myanmar the paper comes to several conclusions.

Firstly it is imperative that mental health be addressed in conflict affected areas as the resumption of direct, cultural, or structural violence is more likely to occur without adequate means for all involved parties to come to terms with their shared and individual experiences. Secondly, community based mental health programs can be crucial in combating mental health issues in the aforementioned communities due to the deep connection between the staff who come from the communities they are serving. These organizations have a greater understanding of cultural, social, and religious aspects of their communities than any foreigner is likely to be able to gain. Finally, Myanmar must consider mental health a crucial part of the framework for national reconciliation and peacebuilding due to the high level of conflict between the many diverse groups within the country. Trust building between communities, among many aspects of mental health, is imperative to forging any long lasting peace and stability.

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