Episode
October 10, 2017

Who is helping Syrian refugees cope with their mental health?

With millions of people fleeing one of the bloodiest wars of our time, a mental health emergency may await.
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The war in Syria has created a staggering number of refugees -  more than five million. Syrians that were able to start a new life in other countries are just beginning a difficult journey. But traumatic events, memories of atrocities, and separation from family and friends has led to an unprecedented amount of people at risk of mental trauma and myriad mental health issues. 

Turkey has the biggest population of Syrian refugees, with more than 3 million registered Syrians. The government reports that 55 percent of those people need psychological services. Lebanon hosts about 1 million refugees. And in Germany, which has taken the most refugees in Europe, 268,866 Syrians are adjusting to a new way of life. There, a recent study estimated that half of them had mental health issues and that 50 percent had been victims of violence.

Refugees who suffer with mental health issues share many of the same afflictions. A large number suffer psychological damage because of things that happened to them during the war, and many others because of life-threatening journeys to escape.  Some of the most  common problems are emotional disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression,  and various anxiety disorders. But mental health professionals say that may be just the tip of the iceberg.

The logistics required to evaluate and treat such a huge number of refugees are daunting. Mental health can take a backseat while other seemingly more pressing issues like housing, learning a new language, and day-to-day survival are the focus.

Seeking treatment, especially among men, is often stigmatised in Syrian culture. So, are refugees receiving adequate services for their mental health needs?


On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Zaher Sahloul @sahloul
Founder, MedGlobal
medglobal.org

Leyla Akca
Clinical Director, Maya Foundation
mayavakfi.org

Ahmad Chahabi
Peer counselor, International Psychosocial Organisation
ipsocontext.org

Read more:

In Syria's war mental health is the last priority - Syria Deeply
'Millions of dollars missing' in school aid for Syrians - Al Jazeera English 
Syria's mental health crisis - The Brookings Institution

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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