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n African Journal of Psychiatry - Psychiatric disorders among war-abducted and non-abducted adolescents in Gulu district, Uganda : a comparative study : original article
Objective: We aimed to assess the nature and patterns of psychiatric disorders among adolescents who had been war-abducted in the war in northern Uganda, compared to non-abducted adolescents living in Gulu district, Uganda.
Method: A cross sectional study that used an unmatched case-control design compared 82 abducted and 71 non-abducted adolescents for scores on measures of psychological distress and for selected psychiatric diagnoses using the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and the Mini International Neural-Psychiatric Interview for Children and Adolescents English version 2.0 (M.I.N.I-KID).
Results: More than 90% of adolescents reported exposure to severe trauma, either through direct or indirect experiences. Significantly more war abducted adolescents reported PTSD (26.8% v. 12.7%) (p=0.03) major depression (19.5% v. 4.2%) (p=0.004), and generalised anxiety disorder (13.4 v. 4.2%) (p=0.049) than non abducted adolescents. By contrast, non-abducted adolescents reported more past suicidality (p=0.004, χ2=8.2) than adolescents who were abducted. However, despite high rates of psychiatric disorder, these adolescents had good psychosocial adjustment.
Conclusion: Adolescents in war affected areas whether war-abducted or not have varied and clinically significant emotional responses to different kinds of traumatic exposure. In a war-affected area, the development of a sustainable service for adolescents that tries to address the full range of mental health problems may be more appropriate than a psychological trauma service that focuses on one diagnosis.
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