News / Health

    Mideast Turmoil Prompts Worries of Long-term Mental Trauma

    Aftermath of tear gas firing by security forces to disperse a protest by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, in Cairo, Dec. 6, 2013.
    Aftermath of tear gas firing by security forces to disperse a protest by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, in Cairo, Dec. 6, 2013.
    The violent aftermath of the Arab Spring is taking a toll on the mental health of people in the Middle East. And with no end in sight to turmoil, some psychiatrists warn that the numbers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders and severe depression will climb.

    In the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli, a six-year-old refugee boy from the Syrian town of Hama explains the picture he’s drawn of a house and an artillery battery. He pushes aggressively into the center of a circle of refugee children to detail the dangers he faced in Syria from exploding rockets.

    Psychiatrist Mohamed Khalil says it isn’t unusual for refugee kids from the two-and-half year Syrian civil war to draw weapons and to veer from hyperactivity to withdrawal.

    He says traumatized children who have witnessed brutality and violent death often regress and wet their beds, suck their thumbs and experience restless, nightmare-filled sleep.

    “You get isolation or social isolation, and they don’t want to speak to people but you can also get aggression, and the main toys for children is guns," said Khalil.

    Khalil says the region is engulfed in a public health crisis that is gaining little media coverage or sufficient attention from international relief agencies.

    There are no reliable numbers of those struggling with mental health problems. But across the region, pyschiatrists say violence and political turmoil is causing severe depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorders.

    The problems often are left untreated. In Egypt’s capital, Cairo, psychiatirst Ahmed Abdellah says a cultural stigma about mental health problems hinders the medical professionals trying to raise the alarm or to secure government help.

    He says three years of revolution and counter-revolution in Egypt are exacting a heavy price in mental health terms.

    “The problem is there’s a gap between what is going on in the society and between what is in clinics and in psychiatric institutes, especially the governmental institutes. Nowadays we have massive numbers of post-traumatic stress disorder cases. But you will not find maybe any of these cases in psychiatric departments," said Abdellah.
     
    He says not only are people left to suffer when they could be helped but also that more problems are being stored up when victims of post-traumatic stress disorders are not treated.

    “To leave somebody with trauma untreated, this opens him and the society to many expectations. First of all you are open for more aggression, you are open for more stress and displaced stress.  We are open to more violence, actually. If you have maybe tens of thousands, maybe more of people who are suffering, you could not expect them to work, to share, to intervene, to interact," he said.

    Young people are especially suffering. There are as many as 50,000 displaced Syrian children under the age of 16 in Lebanon.

    Based on his previous work with trauma sufferers elsewhere in conflict zones, Khalil estimates that at least one-third are at risk of developing severe PTSD, and as a result develop into adults who struggle to cope with daily life.

    You May Like

    Turkey, West in Standoff Over Syrian Refugees

    Turkish government refuses to admit refugees, the first in a wave of civilians fleeing offensive by Assad regime in northern Aleppo countryside

    Jailed American Testifies About Islamist Involvement in Mumbai Attacks

    David Headley testifies via video link that Pakistan-based Islamic terror group made two failed attempts to mount strikes in Mumbai in months prior to coordinated assault

    These Are the 10 Smartest US States

    A new report breaks down the nation's best and brightest

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Susan from: USA
    December 30, 2013 2:15 PM
    hey VOA, its the long term mental trauma of Islam that is the cause of all this decayed and diseased region... and it is spreading... to Europe... America... Russia... Australia... soon to China... everywhere Islam has a foothold, terrorism and its malignant depravity will follow.
    In Response

    by: Omar from: USA
    December 31, 2013 10:33 AM
    You are extremely ignorant Susan to make this about religion, trauma and mental health impact is allover the world.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.