The mental health and psychosocial impact of the Bougainville Crisis: A synthesis of available information

David Tierney, Paul Bolton, Barnabas Matanu, Lorraine Garasu, Essah Barnabas, Derrick Silove

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: The Bougainville Crisis (1988-1997) was the largest armed conflict in the Pacific since WW-II. Despite this, there has been no assessment of the Mental Health and Psychosocial (MHPS) impact of the war. The aim of this paper is to summarize the available data regarding the longer-term MHPS impact of the Bougainville Crisis. Methods: A literature review and a sequence of consultations in Bougainville were conducted to identify the MHPS impact of the Bougainville Crisis and the capacity within Bougainville to address these issues. Results: The Bougainville Crisis resulted in violence-related deaths; the displacement of more than half of the population; widespread human rights abuses; far-reaching societal impacts including undermining of the traditional authority of elders and women and damage to cultural values and relationships; property damage and significant impacts on education and the economy. Conflict-related experiences continue to impact on mental health in the form of trauma-related symptoms, anger, complicated grief, alcohol and substance abuse, domestic violence including sexual assault, excessive alcohol use and a lack of engagement in purposeful activities. Other impacts include an increase in other forms of gender-based violence (including sexual assault), population displacement, and adverse trans-generational effects on children exposed to disturbed parental behaviours attributable to conflict exposure. In spite of the evident needs, there is limited capacity within Bougainville to address these pressing MHPS issues. Conclusions: The Bougainville Crisis has had a significant MHPS impact at multiple levels in the society. There is a strong interest within Bougainville to draw on external expertise to build local capacity to address MHPS issues. Preliminary recommendations are made to assist the process of building the capacity in Bougainville to address MHPS needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number18
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 3 2016


  • Bougainville crisis
  • Civil war
  • Mental health and psychosocial impact

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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