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Post-war mental health, wealth, and justice

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The paper launches a normative debate on an under-assessed health policy problem, namely post-war mental health. It explores its ethical dimensions and argues for a strong moral claim to invest in it as a form of reparation that must be added to the jus post-bellum’s truncated list of recommendations. Many countries are currently involved in armed conflict and many more still recovering from past wars. These generally belong to the low-to-middle income group that spend minimally on social and health expenditures.The problem worsens post-war for these countries are burdened with an increased prevalence of mental health disorders with far-reaching repercussions. Failure to recognize in particular war-related psychosocial sequels could weaken capacity to recover and may contribute to a nation’s socio-political unrest that could perpetuate throughout generations. The paper argues that reconstructing war-torn societies should be achieved by rebuilding first and foremost the shattered individual. Policy-makers have a stronger positive obligation to invest in post-war mental health because of a shared responsibility for the harm inflicted. This consequently means a shared responsibility in building a sustainable and viable post-war ‘minimally just state’.The paper draws on Pogge’s ‘relational conceptions of justice’ and the concept of‘shared responsibility’ used in contemporary environmental discourses. It challenges the old paradigmatic model of the just-war tradition which views the world as an archipelagos of well-delineated, self-contained and atomized actors. It also aims to set the stage for an ‘ethics of post-war mental health’ in line with what Ricoeur calls ‘an ethics of memory’.

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