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Mental health during the Syrian crisis: How Syrians are dealing with the psychological effects

  • Mazen Hedar

Abstract

Looking at the physical damage caused by the Syrian war, one can begin to imagine the scale of the psychological toll that eight years of crisis have taken on the Syrian people. In a country where mental health was still considered an emerging field before the war, Syrians are working to address and manage the mental health and psychological effects of war. Despite this disastrous situation, there appears to have been significant progress in the field of mental health during the crisis. This article explores the mental health situation in Syria prior to 2011, the effects of the crisis on Syrians, and how these have been managed in recent years. It concludes by citing some examples of progress that have been made in mental health care in Syria and discussing some of the challenges that remain to be addressed.

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1 Human Rights Watch, “Syria: Events of 2017”, in World Report 2018, 2018, available at: www.hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/syria.

2 Ammar Yusuf, “Study of Shocking Figures: Syrian Losses in Five Years”, business 2 business, 7 January 2017, available at: http://b2b-sy.com/news/40984/ (in Arabic).

3 Rehab al-Ibrahim, “Khasa'ir al-harb al-suriyya qarabat 1170 milyar dolar [Syrian War Damages Approach 1.17 Trillion Dollars]”, Al-Akhbar, 11 January 2017, available at: https://al-akhbar.com/Syria/224584.

4 According to the Syrian Arab Psychiatric Association, available at: www.psysyr.org/ (in Arabic).

5 For more information, see “Syrian Brotherhood Family”, Quenshrin, available at: www.qenshrin.com/details.php?id=3670#.XFg26umWwid (in Arabic).

6 Psychiatrists study medicine and then specialize in mental health. In Syria this means studying medicine for six years and psychiatry for four years, making a total of ten years of secondary school in the scientific branch. Psychologists, in contrast, study psychology for five years (previously for four years) after secondary school.

7 Figures courtesy of the Syrian Arab Psychiatric Association, available at: www.psysyr.org/ (in Arabic).

8 Figures courtesy of the Syrian Arab Psychiatric Association, available at: www.psysyr.org/ (in Arabic).

9 Bundes Psychotherapeuten Kammer (German Chamber of Psychotherapists), Psychotherapeutic Care for Refugees in Europe, June 2017, available at: https://tinyurl.com/y3ysdmbj.

10 Omer Karasapan, “Syria's Mental Health Crisis”, Future Development, 25 April 2016, available at: www.brookings.edu/blog/future-development/2016/04/25/syrias-mental-health-crisis/

11 Zeinab Hijazi and Inka Weissbecker, Syria Crisis: Addressing Regional Mental Health Needs and Gaps in the Context of the Syria Crisis, International Medical Corps, Washington, DC, 2015, p. 2, available at: https://internationalmedicalcorps.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Syria-Crisis-Addressing-Mental-Health.pdf

12 O. Karasapan, above note 10.

13 Alhaffar, Muhammad Bahaa Aldin, Mustafa, Khattab, Sabbagh, Samira, Yabrode, Kamal, Shebib, Ghalia and Kouchaji, Chaza, “Seven Years of War in Syria: The Relation between Oral Health and PTSD among Children”, Indian Journal of Oral Health and Research, Vol. 4, No. 1, 2018.

14 Figures courtesy of the Syrian Arab Psychiatric Association, available at: www.psysyr.org/ (in Arabic).

15 See WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme, “Mental Health”, available at: www.who.int/mental_health/mhgap/en/.

16 See UNICEF, “Syrian Crisis”, available at: www.unicef.org/emergencies/syria/.

17 See International Organization for Migration, IOM Regional Response to the Syria Humanitarian Crisis, 8–21 July 2014, available at: www.iom.int/files/live/sites/iom/files/Country/docs/IOM-Regional-Response-to-the-Syria-Crisis-Sitrep-8-21-July-2014.pdf; Mazen AboulHosn, “IOM experience of working with national systems (universities) in Turkey and Lebanon in a panel exploring collaborations with local partners”, presentation at NLG Positive Pathways Summit, 22–23 November 2017, available at: https://tinyurl.com/y49ow2xq.

18 See GOPA-DERD, “About Us”, available at: www.gopaderd.org/about-us/our-programs.

19 See Mashta Al Helou, “Psycho-social Support Program”, GOPA-DERD, 17 August 2016, available at: www.gopaderd.org/news/activity-people-affected-by-bombings-in-jableh%E2%80%99s-garages.

20 See, e.g., SARC, “Following-Up Visit to the Needs of the SARC's Dispensary in Dwailaa”, reliefweb, 24 June 2014, available at: https://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/following-visit-needs-ofthe-sarc-s-dispensary-dwailaa; H. Zain and H. Said, “Syrian Red Crescent Services Cover 92,000 Families in 2nd Quarter of 2015”, Syrian Arab News Agency, 5 July 2015, available at: https://sana.sy/en/?p=47260; SARC, “Comprehensive Medical Services Provided by SARC Dispensaries across Aleppo”, 22 June 2016, available at: http://sarc.sy/comprehensive-medical-services-provided-sarc-dispensaries-across-aleppo/.

21 See IMC, “Where We Work: Syria”, available at: https://internationalmedicalcorps.org/country/syria/. For more on psychological support provided to children, see Wheda Muhammad Murad, “Idtrab maa ba'd al-sadma wa ‘alaqatuhu bul-da'm al-nafsy: dirasa ‘alaa ʻayyina min al-atfal al-muhajireen fi muhafadhat dimashq [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Its Relationship with Psychological Support: A study on a Sample of Displaced Children in the Governorate of Damascus]”, Master's thesis, University of Damascus, 2015, available at: http://mohe.gov.sy/master/Message/Mc/wahida%20mrad.pdf.

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