As the Syrian Civil War hits its third year, the toll the conflict is taking on the mental health of war refugees is becoming more and more apparent. To quote the Global Post,
International aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said in October that 15 percent of Syrian refugees in an Iraqi refugee camp displayed symptoms of a severe mental disorder, double the number a year before."Our team is increasingly seeing more complex reactions and symptoms among the refugees. Disorders such as schizophrenia and severe depression are becoming more commonplace, and we are seeing many patients who have suicidal tendencies," said Ana Maria Tijerino, a mental health adviser for MSF. In Syria, the Damascus-based psychiatrist says the magnitude and nature of the cases he comes across have forced him to rethink his entire approach to treatment."We're seeing a lot of cases of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) ... Children who witness blood and gore. They can't shake the images from their mind. They see it every time they blink," he said.
Sadly, this shouldn't come as any surprise. Reports have been coming out for a while now detailing the mental health crisis in Syrian refugee camps, such as this one from last year noting how the "single men area" of camps, where guys lack natural support groups, are paritcularly vulnerable.
Mental health in warzones is a relatively new concept. The Harvard Program in Research Trauma brags that the basic concepts of human rights for refugees "did not exist in American medicine" before it came along in 1981. Since then, it and the World Health Organization have developed a wide variety of strategies to work towards making up for this type of devestating lack of proper treatment, which often puts mental health in the context of nutrition and exercise. As for now, the Post makes Syria's pyschatrists out to be like spies behind enemies lines, which they might as well be:
It was cold and dark in the psychiatrist's office in downtown Damascus. The electricity had just gone out, a regular occurrence these days in the Syrian capital, and he wore a jacket and scarf for warmth.
It's a fitting analogy.