MANILA - The months-long fighting in Marawi City left the once vibrant Islamic city in ruins, but its people, those who survived the war, still endure "invisible" scars two years since the conflict ended.
Mel (not his real name), 34, was a teacher taken as a hostage during the crisis. Before the siege, he described himself as someone who gets easily angered, but it got worse after the fighting to "a level that I fear myself."
In the next 2 months after he was released, he said he tried to hide the fact that he was "wounded," but it eventually dawned on him that he needs healing.
"I need to change the perspective, change the environment. I have to be responsible of myself because no one is going to help me anyway," he said in a video released by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
He is one of 47 people who suffered severe trauma and are undergoing individual mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) sessions with the the ICRC.
“The wounds that do not bleed are the wounds that become scars. And these are the most painful because they will always leave a vestige, they will always leave a remembrance. They will always leave something to look at...Nevertheless, it is still important because it is still a lesson,” said Mel.
The ICRC’s MHPSS program in the Philippines was rolled out in October 2018, a year after the Marawi siege ended. It aims to help those who suffered the conflict, by "the direct provision of care for and the promotion of psychological and psychosocial well-being, the prevention of further psychological distress and by helping beneficiaries overcome it."
"It is important to address mental health needs for the victims of armed conflict because those needs are not easily identified. We are talking about invisible wounds," said Jesus Carzola, mental health and psychosocial support delegate for the international group.
The ICRC is an independent organization that has an international mandate to promote knowledge for and compliance of international humanitarian law.