The life of a child soldier is not an easy one; it’s full of violence and bloodshed. Children from most ages get recruited and are forced to do things that they are against, things that are against their beliefs. But although child soldiers suffer through many mental disorders, they can still be respectable adults. They go through many things, the recruiting itself, then the violence, after comes the horrifying rehabilitation and last they are finally reintegrated into society.
In A Long Way Gone, Ishmael suffered from these things, himself explaining that at some point in his life, he just went numb to everything (Beah 121). Throughout Africa, rebel groups, and the army itself, have been recruiting children who are between the ages of 11-16, to fight. These children get to see and do traumatic things that can harm any young child. For example, when Ishmael gets found by the rebels, he first gets chosen along a few of his friends, and then gets thrown back in the line, the second time, his brother was chosen.
The rebels told his brother’s group that they needed to “show you blood and make you strong” by killing the other half of the group (Beah 31-35). Here, it shows the brutality that the rebels use to recruit children, and here is where the mental issues start, seeing how the children will be traumatized by the fact that they killed someone. After a while in the army, the children are then discharged and taken to the rehabilitation center so they can let go of their past and start moving on.
In the book A Long Way Gone, Ishmael’s nurse, Esther, tries to help this distraught Ishmael through everything he has gone through, and making him talk about it seemed to be the most effective (Beah 152-160). The first few months are the worst because these kids are thinking like they’re still in war, and their minds run like a machine gun, only stopping when you don’t pull the trigger. They also have to go through the withdrawal stage, since they cannot have any more drugs.
There is one program that helps them through the entire rehabilitation state, and it’s the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration). This program takes away their guns and anything that remind them of the war, like the drugs, after they put the child in a rehabilitation center and try to give them a new cycle, like going to school and such and last they reintegrate them into society, both socially, economically and emotionally (“Recent Developments in International Rehabilitation of Child Soldiers”).
Different methods are taken to help these children rehabilitate, but none the less, they are rehabilitated, and helped, taken away from the war and returned to their childhoods. After the children are rehabilitated, they are reintegrated into society with the hope that they will continue their lives violence-free. Actual studies have been made to evaluate the process of the children after they are rehabilitated and thrown back into society.
In the study, children who had killed someone increased levels in hostility, others who survived rape also had high levels of anxiety and hostility but they had shown greater confidence and prosocial attitudes. At the end of the study, the improved community acceptance lowered levels of depression and improved confidence and prosocial attitudes despite the violent past. (Betancourt, “Sierra Leone’s Former Child Soldiers: A Follow-up Study of Psychological Adjustment and Community Reintegration”).
The study showed that despite their violent past, they overcame it, let go of it and had some positive effects when they were put back in society. Throughout a child soldier’s life, they experience incredible things, and along those lines, they also suffer greatly. They went into war to make a family of their squad, only to get torn away from them when they were discharged, after finished rehabilitation they were thrown into society to mend for themselves. After so much suffering, a lot of people admire the bravery these children have, and admire the fact that they overcome their past and often find peace in themselves.