Source: (2000) Ethnicity and Health. 5(3/4):191-204

The South African Truth and Reconcilaition Commission (TRD) represents one model of dealing with human rights abuses at a national level. Such abuses, and the subsequent attempts to come to terms with them, can cause mental disorders and psychological pain. Consequently, mental health and mental health practitioners will play an important role in the process of bodies such as the TRC. THe aim of this article is to examine the TRC process from a psycholegal perspective and to recommend which aspects thereof can be improved in the future. For example, the use of terminology such as 'victim' and 'perpetrator' during the process may have influenced how participants were perceived and treated. Likewiase, the emphasis on collective, rather than individual interests, restricted the role of survivors and amnesty seekers in the TRC process. This reduced the effectiveness of the TRC in bringing about reconciliation at an individual and a national level, and limited the TRC's potential potential as a therapeutic agent. Nevertheless, there were claims that the TRC process healed people. It is argued that the process in itself usually did not lead to healing. Instead, the TRC process highlighted great mental health needs, which were not adequately met. The article discusses the factors that make it difficult to meet mental health needs in countries where human rights abuses have taken place. The article then considers strategies to meet these needs and emphasizes how important it is that those who render mental health services are competent and seen to credible by the consumers of such services. Finally, the article addresses the need for research in this field to be co-ordinated and professionally responsible.