The pathetic tale told by the numbers
The aim of the study which covered 391 cases of disappearances in the Southern Province was to check out the prevalence of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD) in families of disappeared individuals.
It also compared and contrasted those who eventually received the mortal remains and those who did not. This was while the study looked at their belief as to whether the missing person was still alive or dead. (See graphic)
All these families were identified through the District Secretariat and the Grama Niladharis. Some families, however, had not volunteered to divulge information due to “understandable” reasons such as security issues and stigma.
If the interviewee had lost more than one family member, he/she had been asked to specify whose death was most difficult to cope with and to base their answers with reference to that person.
When taking the families of the missing:
Of the interviewees, 275 had been females and 164 mothers of the disappeared person.
The interviewees’ mean age was 57.6 years, with the youngest and oldest being 18 and 89 years respectively. At the time of their family member’s disappearance, the interviewees’ age had ranged from just 2 years to 72 years.
The death of 168 of the missing had later been confirmed by the remains being found and identified as the missing person. The families of the remaining 223 are yet to receive any confirmation relating to the status of their loved one.
While 72 of those who had disappeared following the tsunami were confirmed to have died, this was the case for only 96 of the disappearances related to civil conflicts. Among those who have not obtained confirmation of death, when asked about their general belief, about 44% had been “unsure” whether the missing person had died or was still alive. Almost a similar proportion was confident that the person had died, while a small number was living with the strong belief that their family member was still alive somewhere.