Mideast Unrest Prompts Worries of Long-term Mental Trauma

    21 January, 2014


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

    Many Syrians have fled to Lebanon to escape the conflict in their homeland. Recently, reporter Jamie Dettmer visited the Lebanese city of Tripoli, where he found a number of Syrian refugees.

    Among them was a six-year-old boy from the Syrian town of Hama. The boy listed the dangers he faced in Syria from exploding rockets. He explained the picture he has made of a house and an artillery battery.

    Mideast Unrest 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.

    Mohamed Khalil is a Psychiatrist, specializing in treatment of mental disorders. He says it is not unusual for refugee children from the two-and-half year long Syrian war to draw weapons. He says they also often change quickly from hyperactive behavior to emotional withdraw.

    Doctor Khalil says children who have seen inhuman acts and violent death often return to behavior seen in younger children. He says they might suck their thumbs or wet their beds, and he says they often have frightening dreams, and experience restless sleep.

    Doctor Khalil says there is a public health crisis across the Middle East right now. He says it gets little or no attention from the media or aid groups.

    There are no good estimates of the numbers of people suffering from mental health problems in the Middle East. But mental health experts say violence and political unrest is causing severe depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorders(PTSD). The problems are often left untreated.

    Ahmed Abdellah is a psychiatrist in Egypt. He says cultural shame about mental health problems can interfere with efforts to help people. He says three years of civil conflict in Egypt is harming the mental health of its people.

    "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 also says people are left to suffer when they could be helped, but he says more problems are created when victims of PTSD do not get treatment.

    "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.

    And that's the VOA Learning English Health Report. For more stories about health, go to our website 51voa.com. I'm Christopher Cruise.