How does a soldier’s face change from when he goes to the front until when he comes back? What do the gestures on that face say about what he has experienced? From what he has seen, from what he has done, from what he has suffered… Combatants in wars expose themselves to physical injuries, but it is also very common for conflicts to leave mental scars. Alberto Fernández Liria and Pau Pérez-Sales are psychiatrists specialized in caring for people who have gone through this type of situation. In the video that accompanies this news item, they explain what the main consequences for the mental health of soldiers such as those who have been fighting in the war in Ukraine since last February may be.
When you talk about the mental consequences of a conflict, you think of post-traumatic stress. But there are others that are not clinical and can have a much greater impact in the long term, because they affect identity. “In order for me to function, I need to believe that I am on the side of the good guys. And if I have to kill or have to exercise cruelty, it is in legitimate defense, ”Pérez-Sales explains in the video. “One of the things that have surprised me, I think the one that has disturbed me the most, has been the ease with which normal people can find themselves involved in authentic atrocities,” adds Fernández Liria.
The difficult return to normality
Returning to normality is a major challenge for those who have gone through something like this. “Then comes the guilt, the horror, because what he did was not basically him or her who did it, it was that identity transformed by the context of war, in those circumstances. What it will generate is a questioning of the person himself”, says Pérez-Sales. And Fernández Liria concludes: “You have experienced something that you cannot express in words, and if you express it, the impression you have is that the person in front of you is not being able to understand it, which tears you away from humanity as a collective and it turns you into someone who is radically alone, and this is a terrible thing.”
In this video you will find:
- Interview with the psychiatrist Alberto Fernandez Liria.
- Interview to Pau Perez-Salespsychiatrist and director of the Center Sir[a]
- Images of the horror soldiers face daily in Ukraine