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

Computer Crash Halts US Visa, Passport Operation

Problems with database have resulted in extensive backlog of applications, affected State Department's consular offices all over the world More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

World Bank: Boko Haram Stalls African Aid Projects

Islamist group’s terrorism sets back agriculture, health efforts in Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria More

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.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid