Trauma and Violence

It goes without saying that trauma and violence  can cause a serious toll of psychological effects on the human mind. It is unfortunate that there are so many people living with mental illnesses in the world we live in today, although the price to help these people is relatively cheap. Day-in and day-out, there are millions of people suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), yet there are not enough facilities and organizations to help these people deal with the troubles of their past.

Recently more than ever, the world has experienced and witnessed this problem first-hand. There are approximately twelve million Syrian refugees who have been traumatized from the Syrian War going on in their home country. According to Dr. Peter Henningsen, there are three major traumatic backgrounds for those who have recently fled the country of Syria: those who have been involved in the Syrian War, those who are refugees, and those who are arriving in a foreign country after witnessing what has been going on in their homeland. Not only have these Syrians witnessed the war, but the majority have also been victims of violence themselves (Gregoire). If they haven’t been feeling the effects of mental illness already, these Syrian refugees are going to start developing symptoms of serious mental health illnesses soon.

As Paul Farmer states in his book, Reimagining Global Health, mental illnesses are usually underdiagnosed, and the resources to deal with these issues are “disproportionately low to the amount of people suffering” (Farmer et al, 213). With all of these traumatized refugees entering countries that don’t have enough resources to deal with all of the Syrian’s problems, how will this affect the refugees who are seeking help? According to Sharon Abramowitz in her article, Searching for Normal in the Wake of the Liberian War, she claims that the typical path of a traumatized person who has witnessed a war goes as follows; they are normal, then they become traumatized, then they become totally insane, and then they die. This idea of a refugee’s path after war seems rather morbid and hopeless, because Abramowitz conducted her studies in Liberia, where the resources to help these people were virtually non-existent. However, the countries that the Syrian refugees have come to since their escape are more likely to have the ability to put the refugees on a hopeful path.

Another aspect of the article by Abramowitz that will prove to be important in the coming months and years for the Syrian refugees is her claim that there is a triangulation between trauma, drug addiction and psychosis. As noted in the Huffington Post article by Gregoire mentioned above, at least one half of the twelve million Syrian refugees are children. These children have witnessed an intolerable amount of violence in the short amount of time they have been alive, and some have probably witnessed the killings of their own parents and family members. It will be extremely important for the countries that have taken in these children to guide them to a life without drug abuse. Some of these refugees may find that using these drugs may give them a high that helps them escape their past for some time, like the story we read of Valentine from Liberia in the Abramowitz article.

As Dr. Priscilla Daas-Brailsford mentions in the Huffington Post article, the focus of these countries will be to help cure the physical injuries and infectious diseases of the refugees, leaving many of the mental illnesses overlooked. A statistic that shows just how serious and necessary mental health care is for these Syrian refugees comes from this article as well: “Dietrich Munz, president of the German chamber of psychotherapists, estimated that while 3,000 to 4,000 psychotherapy sessions are offered in German refugee camps each year, the demand may be twenty times higher.” With statistics like this, it is essential for doctors, politicians, therapists, and everyone in these welcoming countries to do everything they can to prevent these mental illnesses from damaging the minds of the poor refugees even further. As evident from the Syrian refugees’ situation, trauma and violence can cause serious psychological issues in those who have witnessed war. The idea of mental health illnesses is becoming more and more acknowledged, but there needs to be far more resources to help those suffering from these diseases.

Discussion Questions:

  • What do you think is necessary to ensure that the mental health of Syrian refugees do not become damaged any more than it already has? Does this matter fall in the hands of politicians? Doctors? Surrounding countries?
  • As we have seen in the news recently, many countries in Europe have closed their borders due to the large number of Syrian refugees who are looking for safe places to enter. Do you believe that these countries should close their borders?


41 thoughts on “Trauma and Violence”

  1. It seems fair to me for some of the neighboring countries to justify closing their borders, if the large influx of people is making a significant difference to how the country can operate and what the country can provide to the refugees. For example, there are currently 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon – which led to a 25% increase in the country’s population ( Nonetheless, I think this closing of borders is only acceptable in cases where other countries open their doors to these refugees. Living outside of a war zone seems like a basic right that should be provided, especially since we (as Americans, or as citizens of a country with certain resources and not in a civil war) are cognizant of all the detrimental effects of PTSD and of time spent in such a situation. However, with cases like the Hungarian camerawoman tripping and kicking refugees and the growing sizes of refugee camps, it seems like there must be a better way to deal with this crisis.

    1. Hi Methma,
      Thank you for your comment. I found your argument to have significant value, and I agree with your point. I think the sudden and large influx of a population can be very detrimental to many factors that make a country function (economy, health, resources, basic necessities). However, I am curious as to whether these Syrian refugees have the ability (strength, food, water, mental toughness) to travel even further distances to reach other countries. While this may help the populations of these countries, it may not be realistic to ask the refugees to do this much. To go off of this, what other strategies do you think may be useful in spreading out the Syrians among surrounding countries? Would it make sense for financially stable countries to send over modes of transportation to help move these Syrian refugees?

      1. Hi Julianne,
        That’s a very fair point. Any sort of uprooting and transplanting of a life take effort, and this is an even more drastic change as it is in the middle of the civil war.

        I think it would be ideal if other countries could provide transportation for Syrian refugees, but it seems a little unlikely. At the moment, we are applauding the countries that are simply opening up their borders to the refugees or announcing that they are willing to take in more – so I think it will take a little time before sending transportation becomes more prevalent. Although it seems like neighboring countries and more affluent nations should be willing to take in refugees simply because of humanitarian reasons, I wonder if there could be some way to incentivize the entrance of refugees or provide the nations funds for the transportation help, through the UN or some other intergovernmental body. I don’t like having to suggest that, but I think it would be an effective way to get other nations to act. Do you have any other suggestions for how we could do this? Or any ideas of how to fund the transportation help?

        1. Hi Methma,
          I think you bring up a very good point. The fact that as of now, we are simply acknowledging and applauding countries for opening up their borders shows that asking for funding for transportation is unlikely. While I think this is a very good idea, I unfortunately don’t think it is realistic.
          To answer your question, I am not sure of any other effective ways to deal with this problem. I think the situation these Syrians are in is very unfair and unfortunate, and I think action needs to be taken immediately. I’m interested to see what others think of this topic, and would be interested to hear others’ ideas on this matter.

          1. I just read an article this morning saying that the EU is planning to offer financial incentives to Turkey to help it cope with the refugees from Syria and Iraq ( I think this is definitely a step in the right direction. (The funding is supposed to help pay for implementing asylum procedures and opening six refugee reception centers, among other things.)

          2. Hi Methma,

            The website would not let me reply to your last comment (10-7-15), so I am posting my reply under this thread of comments:

            Thank you for sharing that article. I think that is a neat approach to helping this issue, and as you said, I think it is a step in the right direction. These efforts to fund asylum procedures and refugee reception centers should hopefully prove to be effective. I am interested to see how this solution unfolds.

          3. Hi Methma,

            Since a couple of months have passed since responding to this thread, I am curious to hear about your stance regarding the advances of the Syrian refugees crisis.

            Presidential candidate Donald Trump has voiced his anti-humanitarianism viewpoint on not letting these refugees onto US soil. He claims that he would send them back to Syria. Trump’s argument is that we don’t know who these refugees really are and that the US is “the worst when it comes to paperwork.” ( Do you agree with Trump?

            As we have read in many books throughout this course, it is important, on a humanitarian level, to help anyone suffering, especially in the context of a crisis or emergency. Do you think the US should allow Syrians into the country in settle? Do you think that we have a moral role to help them?

          4. Hi Methma,

            Since a couple of months have passed since responding to this thread, I am curious to hear about your stance regarding the advances of the Syrian refugees crisis.

            Presidential candidate Donald Trump has voiced his anti-humanitarianism viewpoint on not letting these refugees onto US soil. He claims that he would send them back to Syria. Trump’s argument is thoroughly explained in this article:
            Do you agree with Trump?

            As we have read in many books throughout this course, it is important, on a humanitarian level, to help anyone suffering, especially in the context of a crisis or emergency. Do you think the US should allow Syrians into the country in settle? Do you think that we have a moral role to help them?

          5. Hi Julianne,

            I do not agree with what Trump has said about refugees. I hope I was not unclear earlier, but I definitely advocate the entrance of refugees into other countries, for humanitarian reasons. I believe we do have a moral role to help. Furthermore, the reason Trump has provided for wanting to close borders to refugees is mainly the possibility of letting terrorists into the US as refugees. First, this is not likely. Second, I think this kind of problem should be fixed by better intelligence on terrorist activity, instead of not allowing thousands of people a basic human right of living in a safe situation.

  2. – I think that there are a couple of ways to approach the issue regarding the mental health of the Syrian refugees. As stated in class, you could establish rehabilitation centers, increase PCP training and health workers, or the most interesting option: prescribe drugs. I’m constantly debating whether or not drugs is the solution to this problem. I think that it is a very unfortunate situation, but if a drug can help alleviate the pain and sadness they are feeling, it could be a matter of life and death for an individual (literally). Although, I am not a person who agrees that drugs are something to be dependable on. I think it is important to diagnose a patient at the earliest stage possible. This makes it important for doctors to assume that any Syrian citizen (especially a child) is at a high risk of PTSD. Children may not have a logical explanation in regards to bad dreams or the anxiety they are feeling. I think it is important to have good health workers who are able to work closely with children, along with another sector that works with adults who may be more aware of PTSD.
    – I do not believe that these countries should close their borders. Syrian Refugees are seeking help for a mental illness, not a disease. The people who have not been affected by the war are seeking shelter in order to prevent this horrific mental illness. I could see how some countries could be concerned with an increase in population growth, but I think this would mostly be a temporary population growth. It is hard to just leave and never look back at your home. I also don’t think that there is enough people to cause a dramatic increase in a country’s population—assuming Syrian refugees don’t all congregate to the same location. Another suggestion would be to build shelters for refugees on the outskirts of countries for people seeking treatment and safety. I’m not sure if that can be done, but maybe!
    • Overall, I think this was a really good reference that related directly to the readings-especially Searching for Normal in the Wake of the Liberian War. Both events are awful. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to live with so much anxiety and depression due to horrific events. I hope someone can find a solution that will help the Syrian refugees.

    1. Hi Sam,
      Thanks for your comment. I think you brought up some really great points and opened my mind to some other strategies that may be used to help alleviate the sufferings these Syrian refugees are dealing with.
      Firstly, I really agree with you on many points in your first response regarding the use of medical drugs to help Syrians defeat this illness. However, I am curious as to what type of income these refugees have brought with them to these European countries? Assuming health care is not guaranteed, it may be hard for these Syrians to afford this type of care. Stemming from this, do you think that the countries the Syrians have congregated to should pay for this medical care? Do you think that is possible, giving the fact that millions of Syrians (patients who are in need of these anti-depressants), are all in many of the same European countries? On a simple level, is this affordable?
      I also found your second comment to be very interesting. The majority of refugees are relocating to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey ( There are hundreds of thousands of Syrians entering these countries, some of which already have financial problems of their own. While it may be a temporary population growth, it will still cause a major influx in demand for certain necessities. Personally, I think that it may be beneficial for the Syrians to enter other surrounding countries, and potentially spread out throughout Europe, rather than congregate to a certain few.

      I think you bring up two very solid points. This is a very unfortunate situation, but it is a situation that needs to be dealt with nonetheless. Whether it be providing basic necessities such as food, shelter, and water, or providing more demanding goods such as medicine, I hope that this situation is being addressed for the benefit of the Syrians, who have already dealt with more than one could imagine.

      1. Julianne,
        I totally agree with your comment. I think these refugees need to seek shelters in other countries. Considering there a lot of refugees relocating in three countries, maybe the UN can split up Syria (geographically) and designate where people can go. Take a map of Syria for example, split it up into 12 even pieces (split it up based on population), and designate cities/checkpoints that refugees can go to for safety. In order to “check in” they can show some sort of identification which indicates what part of Syria they live. However, splitting up a country could cause families to be split up, which would be hard and cause more stress. Do you have any suggestions? Refugees could maybe bring up to 5 immediate family members outside their designated area? I don’t know. It’s a tough call. I agree that if too many people congregate to the same parts of surrounding countries there will be a high demand for essential goods and not enough supply, which creates more problems. Do you think the UN should force refugees back to their homes once the war is officially declared over? Are there ways to enforce that?

        1. Hi Sam,
          I understand where your point is coming from – the recent and extreme influx of Syrians is causing crowding, overpopulation and more difficulties to surrounding countries. However, since the Syrian Civil War is an ongoing conflict, I do not believe that Syria is a reliable place to have these Syrians reside. In my opinion, I think it is best for refugees of this Civil War to relocate to many of the surrounding countries. In this case, families can stay together, and the spreading out will hopefully reduce the overpopulation.
          To answer your question as to the UN’s role, I think that it is hard to take a side as to what the UN should do. First and foremost, we have no idea how much longer this war will last. It could be months, years, decades, etc. Without knowing when the war will end, it is complicated to say whether or not the refugees should return. Many of them may be far too traumatized to return to a place where they witnessed slaughterings, rapes, and other tragedies of war. However, some may want to return simply because it is their homeland. That is a difficult question that I don’t know the answer to. Overall, I think that is based on an individual-basis.
          However, I do believe the UN can help Syrians in other wars. For example, it would be beneficial for the UN to provide transportation to help transport these refugees to the locations discussed above.

          1. Julianne,
            I totally agree that Syria is not a safe place for people to stay right now. I also agree that Syrian’s must move to surrounding countries. I’m just having a hard time trying to figure out how to reduce the issue regarding overpopulation.
            You have an interesting view with the involvement of the UN. I would have to agree with you again that it is very hard to tell how long this war may last. Mandating that refugees go back to their homeland could cause more harm than help. It could worsen their mental health. I didn’t really see it that way until you said it, very interesting. Do you think the UN should be involved with providing basic needs to these refugees? i.e. food, supplies, medical aid? Is there really a limit on how much money the UN should invest? Can they seek help from other countries and organizations for donations?

    2. Hi Julianne and Sam,

      I’m a little late to the game here, but I’m very interested in your points about the best way to tackle the psychological ailments that are likely sustained by people involved in such horrific events.

      Growing up in a family of psychologists, I have overheard plenty of debate about whether behavioral therapies or psychiatric/medicinal interventions are best, and when. There are a lot of strong arguments in favor of each of these strategies, but what I have learned from my parents’ takes on these issues is that is really depends on the needs of the individual – if mental health solutions are generalized for an entire population, there will be many individuals who still do not have their needs met, regardless of how well-equipped these initiatives are with facilities, funds, mental health professionals/caregivers, medicines, and so on.

      I think the risks posed by the generalization of mental illness solutions to a population (trauma –> PTSD –> medication) can be somewhat extended to diagnosis itself, in that the rush to diagnose an individual’s psychological pain as categorized “illness” might equally leave their unique experiences and trauma unattended in important ways, and may additional exacerbate their psychological and physical health. The determination to diagnose mental illness as such, and the prioritization of diagnosis over developing an understanding of – and eventually meeting – the individuals’ needs, may result, for example, in hasty prescriptions and the encouragement of addiction to pharmaceuticals meant to provide psychological relief.

      I know this approach to mental wellness seems extremely idealistic and impractical in a time where 1.1 million refugees are facing unimaginable and horrific experiences that may cost them peace of mind for the rest of their lives. I am curious, however, what the detrimental effects may be of prescribing a sort of sweeping solution (send X number of psychologists/psychiatrists/doctors, send X shipments of SSRIs, etc.) that would arise as a bi-product of attempts to relieve the psychological pain of these individuals.

      These thoughts stem for me from a realization that I know little to nothing about what the trauma of these refugees actually looks like. The unfathomable pain that many of these individuals are facing occurred to me when I saw a Humans of New York post featuring a Syrian woman who had just lost her husband, along with her fellow hopeful refugees who had drowned when the inflatable plastic boat was overburdened with passengers. (I’ll try to track down the post and attach the link.) The post reminded me that the only way to understand many of the experiences of suffering that occur for individuals around the world and throughout life is through storytelling and receptivity to the storytelling of the individual. I am reminded of the many anthropological publications that I have found illuminating, and sometimes graphic, that can place humanity and firsthand-emotional dimension behind the many headlines that address crises such as those felt by the people of both Syria and Liberia.

      As has been a theme for me in thinking about the questions that arise in this class, I am frustrated that I have probably done nothing to try to supply or develop any answers about how to lift up the well-being – psychological and otherwise – of the people of Syria seeking shelter from unimaginable pain and a horrific time. I do find importance, however, in prioritizing the individuality and unique needs of each person who desires healing, even in times when sweeping headlines of horrific events invite and make tempting sweeping, expedient solutions.

      1. (I should add “psychodynamic therapies” to the second and third lines of the second paragraph – there is a lot of debate and divide in mental health fields about which are more efficient and best for patient wellness in the long run, and certain professionals tend to lean strongly toward either non-medicinal strategies or techniques that incorporate pharmaceuticals.)

      2. Hi Emma,
        Thank you very much for your comment. It really opened my eyes to something I had not taken into account prior to reading it – that it is essential to truly grasp each individual’s experience as part of the healing process for each refugee. I found the views that your parents take to be significantly important and very relatable to this unfortunate situation.
        I am curious as to what you believe would be the best way to go about individualizing each refugee’s rehabilitation? Personally, I think it would be beneficial to provide support groups, counseling, and therapy sessions, not just right now, but for over the next couple of years. I think this healing process will be a lengthy one, but I think it can be done to some extent with the help of physicians, psychiatrists and doctors around the world.
        Another question I have refers back to your last comment. You mentioned how you felt frustrated in not helping these refugees recover. I’m sure we have all thought about ways in which to go about this, but none of us have necessarily executed such plans. How do you think that we, as current students handling a heavy workload in a far away country, can directly help these refugees? Is there anything we can do?
        My immediate thought was somewhat obvious – we could set up funds to help this situation. But where exactly would this money go? Would it go to those countries where the refugees are seeking asylum to help provide basic necessities? Or could money be raised to help transport these refugees to avoid overpopulation? I think this is a rather loaded question, but I believe we all have a role in helping these Syrians.

  3. Julianne,

    To start, I want to say that I very much enjoyed your post and liked how you were able to work our class readings into a discussion of current events. I think you make a very salient point that the developed countries to which these refugees are fleeing most likely have the ability to provide more resources than the refugees would find in their war-torn home country. Nonetheless, the extent to which these countries provide resources to asylum-seekers—despite their potential ability to provide resources—is a dilemma currently faced by many European countries. With the massive influx of asylum-seekers on European shores, many nations are attempting to cope with the fact that they currently do not have the infrastructure in place to deal with such vast numbers of people seeking refuge. With this in mind, I think it’s important to note that simply escaping the geographical location of a civil war does not equate to reaching safety and security. Without the proper infrastructure in place in the countries to which these refugees flee, many will continue to face hardship, discrimination, and poverty even once they have arrived in a “safe” country.

    I also think you make a good point that the trauma many of these children have endured could very possibly set them up for the struggle to resist finding relief in the form of drug abuse. Indeed, there is an interesting and powerful argument posited by some that criminalizing and stigmatizing drug addiction is in reality only criminalizing and stigmatizing people who have suffered childhood trauma, as most people addicted to drugs began using in the first place as a way to cope with a traumatic experience from their past. If you’re interested in learning more about this perspective, here is a link to a Ted Talk on the subject that I would highly recommend watching:

    1. Hi Sabrina,
      Thank you for your comment and sharing the link to that Ted talk. I just watched it and was very impressed by what Gabor Mate had to offer. What stuck out to me most was a comment that one of Mate’s patients said to him: “I’m not afraid of dying, I’m afraid of living.” As Mate mentioned, most of his patients experienced trauma at young ages. It is likely that these Syrian refugees will be feeling the same way as Mate’s patients – living in fear. Many may turn to drugs for relief of the fear and pain they are experiencing, which will lead them down to even harsher paths. Another aspect of this Ted talk that I found interesting was Mate’s definition of addiction, “”My definition of addiction is any behavior that gives you temporary relief, temporary pleasure, but in the long term causes harm, has some negative consequences, and you can’t give it up despite those negative consequences” (4:58). It is likely that many of these Syrian refugees will seek temporary relief and pleasure, leading them to a future of using drugs. With this in mind, do you have any ideas as to how to help these refugees?
      Personally, I feel that there needs to be a strong presence of doctors and physicians to help them. This is a very tough and unfortunate situation, and it will be interesting to see what is done in order to provide for these refugees.

      1. Hi Sabrina,

        A couple of months have passed since commenting on this post, and I am curious to see your stance on the current situation of the Syrian refugees crisis.

        As many are well aware of, presidential candidate Donald Trump has voiced his anti-humanitarian stance on the refugee situation. He says that he would send the refugees back to Syria if they settled onto US soil. From the many readings regarding humanitarianism that we have read for this class, we know that it is important to help anyone suffering, especially during a crisis or emergency.

        How do you think we, as college students, can play a role in voicing the importance of taking in these refugees? Or do you believe that Trump’s opinion has some value? He claims that we don’t know who these refugees are, and that the US is “the worst when it comes to paperwork.” ( I am interested to see what you think, as I have seen many people post their stance regarding this issue on Facebook and other forms of social media. The most common argument I’ve seen regarding not allowing these refugees onto US soil is that there are thousands of US veterans who are currently homeless. What do you think?

        1. Hi Julianne,
          You have had a wonderful and thoughtful discussion thread about Syria, and I found your question of “what should U.S. do” quite important. I think one of the big hesitations surrounding accepting Syrian refugees is our countries’ abilities to support them and house them with efficient resources. I think momentarily putting aside this concern for the “Trojan Horse” effect and even assuming the innocence of the refugees, infrastructural capacity (as Sabrina brought up) is important. Interestingly, this reminded me of the nail soup concept brought up by Prof. Benton. Maybe addressing employment opportunity, social welfare, health insurance surrounding under-resourced individuals for refugees can build up structural systems for veterans or for other underprivileged populations. Perhaps under this idea of strategic essentialism, grouping the identity of homeless individuals and stateless individuals can spotlight the inadequacies of the larger nation as a whole. From a theoretical viewpoint, it is an interesting idea, however, practicality will surely beg to differ. I’m curious to hear your and others’ thoughts about the systematic issues of bringing in refugees.

          1. Hi Nikisha,

            Thank you for your comment! You bring up a really interesting approach in the discussion of how the US should respond to this pressing issue. I think the idea of strategic essentialism is quite important. If the issues you mentioned (social welfare, employment opportunities, health insurance, etc.) are addressed, structural systems can be enhanced to help eliminate these issues. As for grouping the identity of homeless individuals and stateless individuals together, the nation as a whole can address the most pressing issues. However, I feel as if this grouping of the two will bring together many large issues amongst the groups themselves. Overall, I think your approach is a very neat idea and I’d be curious to see what others think.

  4. Hi Sam,
    I think it is essential for the UN and other countries to help provide basic necessities (food, water, shelter, medical aids, supplies, etc.) to the Syrian refugees. On a basic humanitarian level, I think there should be no hesitation from other countries to help pitch in. However, we know that that may not be the case.
    At a simple level, I think the least other countries could do is send over simple supplies such as water, food, and soap. It may be too much to ask countries that aren’t financially stable to do this, but developed countries that can afford to help out these refugees should do this simply because it is the right thing to do.
    Bringing this back to the idea of mental illness regarding trauma and violence, it is very likely that the majority of these Syrian refugees are currently suffering severe mental illnesses. It would be inhumane to let these people suffer when we know we can help. Our help may not completely stop the suffering, but any little bit we can do will be worthwhile.
    Another thought I recently had on how to help these refugees is to potentially send over physicians and psychiatrists to the countries that these refugees are seeking asylum. Compared to the countries that are opening up their borders to these refugees, the US has an excess number of psychiatrists and physicians. If we sent over some of these medical aids to help diagnose and reduce the suffering of Syrians suffering from mental illnesses, we could potentially save hundreds of thousands of Syrians. Do you think that this is a realistic idea?

    1. Julianne,
      I think that sending psychiatrists and physicians could be a potentially good idea. However, I’m not sure how many people would be willing to or able to do this. This opportunity could be offered as a non-profit internship. Not saying that Syrians don’t deserve the very best help, but this could give more incentive and it wouldn’t cost surrounding countries money to pay for them. They could have a couple experienced staff there as well (such as Dr. P) to monitor intern’s work and give immediate feedback. It also allows people to get more experience and more involvement and maybe find a passion in global health issues.

      1. Hi Sam,
        I think you offer a realistic and ideal approach to begin solving this issue. While I’m sure many organizations have already started either braintstorming or executing ideas, I think it is necessary to take immediate action. The longer we wait, the more severe their symptoms and illnesses will become.

        1. Hi Sam,

          As a few months have passed since responding to this thread, I am curious to see what you think on the recent advances of this crisis.

          As we all know, many politicians have voiced their opinions on this matter. Some, like Trump, believe that we should not allow them into our country for various reasons. I recently read an article regarding this topic, and it discusses two Syrian families who have entered the US in New York ( The International Rescue Committee is working to help these families settle in Texas. However, the state of Texas “filed a federal lawsuit earlier this week to try and stop them from resettling in North Texas.” As we mentioned earlier in the thread of comments on this blog, it is important on a humanitarian level to help out these families in any way possible. How do you think the state of Texas should approach this issue? How can people like us and influential politicians help these two families?

          1. Hi Julianne!

            I thought this article was super interesting. I think that it’s interesting that the refugees were sent to Texas considering Texas is one of the states that explicitly did not want refugees in their state. I propose that instead we send refugees to states that are accepting refugees.. I found a map (, which indicates the states that are willing to help .

            However, on a somewhat unrelated topic, I recently heard that Brown students were trying to get people to donate computers, ipads, and other electronics to the Syrian refugees. What do you think about this? Personally, I think that we need to focus on essential things that they need rather than desires and other commodities. I was very shocked and a little skeptical when I heard this. What would Syrians want/do with electronics? I feel like they have a lot of other issues on their mind. This leads me to question the motive of this student-run organization.

  5. Hi Julianne,

    I like how you provided context to each of your arguments and questions, the context helped me understand the readings better. You are correct in bringing the role PTSD plays in the United States, I would also like to bring into context how much is the United States achieving in regards to follow-up on children whose parents have been deported. And in a global context the mental trauma children, living in cities and towns in Mexico in today’s drug cartel dominated systems, experience as result of being surrounded by violence and fear. The mental trauma that a child experiences as a result of the separation from one’s parents can cause, as was pointed out by many of the readings, behavioral changes. In light of how the readings have pointed out the detrimental effects of war and violence on the mental well being of children, is there a better way to discuss the effects of letting refugees into a country without a political party pointing to the possible “problems down the road”? In other words, can the possibility of behavior change be used to stigmatize children who indirectly/directly are seeking asylum, and cause politicians to view these children as adults who in a few years will be either a “drain in the health care system” or a “danger” to their national citizens. I may be complicating the topic further but I thought these examples would also help add to the context you gave.

    1. Hi Florisel,
      Thanks for your comment. I think you bring up a very important point, and it will be interesting to see how the immigration of these refugees affects politics in the coming years in the countries that the refugees are seeking asylum. Personally, I believe that on a humanitarian level, politicians should be focusing on what is truly important – the immediate health care that these refugees need.
      However, you bring up a valid point in stating that in the coming years, these refugees, as unfortunate as it is, may be seen as a “drain in the health care system” or as a “danger” to the national citizens. I feel like this point could go in many different directions:
      1) the Syrian Civil War may be (hopefully will be) over by the time such accusations may be made. If this is the case, it is possible that Syrians may return to their homeland.
      2) Stemming from the first point, Syrians may be too traumatized to return to a place where they witnessed so much violence and horrific events.
      3) Some refugees may spread out throughout other surrounding countries, minimizing the deficit on the economy, resources, and other needs of these countries
      4) If it really comes down to political parties making such horrible accusations, hopefully other political parties, or neighboring countries could step in and have a voice for the help that these Syrians need.

  6. Julianne,
    I completely agree with you that mental health is a far too common and too often overlooked cause of suffering. I believe that it is most crucial to bring mental health workers in to these refugee camps to begin the healing process. However, I don’t see this as a practical or sustainable response. I wonder about the good foreign mental health workers could do in these camps without being familiar with the culture, and with the likely language barrier. For this reason, I believe the best response would be for these mental health workers to train refugees in the camp to help their fellow refugees. In the Abromowitz reading we read about the effectiveness of this strategy in Nepal, which because of physical features made it necessary for individual communities to have their own mental health workers. I believe that it is the moral responsibility of all countries to pitch in and help these refugees by both taking them into their borders and providing these mental health workers.

    1. Hi Steven,
      Thanks for your comment. I think you pose a very practical and beneficial idea of how to deal with the mental suffering of these refugees. Language barriers would prove to be a tricky obstacle, especially when dealing with something as pressing as mental illness. I think the idea of training fellow refugees to help others deal with their illnesses is a great idea, but it may be too big of a responsibility for one to take, especially since they are all dealing with their own individual problems.

      1. Hi Steven,

        Since a couple of months have passed since discussing this issue on this thread of comments, I am interested to see what you think of the current situation.

        As you mentioned in your comment, you “believe that it is the moral responsibility of all countries to pitch in and help these refugees by both taking them into their borders and providing these mental health workers.” With recent advances on this topic, we have heard the viewpoints of some politicians regarding this matter. For example, Trump believes that we should not allow these refugees into our country for various reasons. How do you think we should approach this issue? As mentioned before, it is important, on a humanitarian level, to help those suffering. However, politicians like Trump voice their opinions opposing a humanitarian stance. How do you think we can voice our opinions on the importance of helping these refugees? Or do you believe that Trump’s opinion has some value? He says that he would send them back to Syria, as we don’t know who they really are and because the US is “the worst when it comes to paperwork.” (

  7. Julliane,

    Thanks for your post! I thought our really addressed some crucial points in this topic, and I liked the way you incorporated a lot of the reading into a very current and real topic. In situations as tragic as the war in Syria, I think mental health comes to the forefront of the dialogue. However, the dialogue is very often about the medicalization of this trauma. I think this arises as a way to simplify and universalize this experience in a way that is easier to manage as well as in a way that can be treated with methods we already know and can be readily implemented. I believe that a long-term solution however would have to more multifaceted and cross-cultural.
    I’d like to try to address your first question, which I think is a very good one but also really complex. I believe the responsibility of achieving this falls on the hands of everyone, but there are only really certain organization that can make sure it happen. I think the United Nations and other countries have an obligation to try to minimize this extreme level of suffering. However this is not an easy task and ultimately the only entity that can truly guarantee health as a human right in Syria is the government itself.

    1. Hi Yilena,

      Thanks for your comment! I think you brought up some great points about such a dense topic. I agree with you in that a long-term solution will have to be multifaceted and cross-cultural. As you mention in your comment, you believe that the UN and other countries are obliged to help reduce the suffering of refugees. As this is a difficult and complex situation to approach, how do you think these outside parties should act?
      Also, you mention that mental health is at the forefront of the dialogue when discussing the impact of the war on these refugees. Do you think there is a chance for mental health issues to be overlooked, as many of these refugees are suffering from injuries and illnesses that are more easily observed? For example, many are suffering from malnutrition and injuries. Will physicians be more inclined to address these issues, and potentially forgetting to diagnosis and treat the mental illnesses they are suffering from?

  8. Hi Methma,

    Thanks for your response. I agree with you in that the US should open their borders to the refugees. As you mention, Trump’s biggest concern is that these Syrians may be terrorists. You bring up a great point in that the US should improve their system of terrorist intelligence and surveillance. To deny thousands of Syrians a human right because of this potential fear is not right on a humanitarian level. These refugees deserve health as a human right.

    1. But, do affluent nations deserve to incur the problems of those from poorer, more violent nations? On the surface, it seems fair to say that those countries in a position of economic stability should welcome everyone. But what a country should do isn’t always what a country can do. A strong economic foothold doesn’t take into account cultural disruptions that can ensue, as in the case of Lebanon now that 25% of its country is comprised of non-Lebanese. I don’t buy that the rejection of refugees is always Islamaphobic, Xenophobic, or even racist. Perhaps it can best be described as culturally protectionist–which would be a viable stance for many European nations that would surely have their way of life altered if a sudden influx of immigrants carrying a different culture come into a European nation used to organizing and identifying itself upon cultural heritage dating back hundreds of years. I think countries more equipped to handle the potential to have a culture redefined by an influx of immigrants (like the United States!!) should be the ones to take in all of the Syrian immigrants, or at least most of them. The United States would be a prime example of a nation that should welcome Syrian refugees with open arms because we are a nation of immigrants. We should uphold this.

      1. Chad,

        Thank you for your comment. I agree with you in that the United States should welcome Syrian refugees, as we are apt to adjust to potential changes, unlike some other less-stable countries. However, you mention that some countries are less apt to welcome these immigrants, because cultural heritage from hundreds of years ago may be altered. I am not sure that I agree that this is a justifiable reason to deny these immigrants security. Reasons such as economic instability, overpopulation, lack of jobs, etc. are better reasons to close borders to these refugees. However, I believe that on a humanitarian level, it is important to welcome those who are in danger and fleeing from war. The harm that may ensue in a welcoming country is less significant than the dangers that are already imposed on these refugees.

  9. Hi Julianne, thanks for your post! One of the things I wanted to bring up first, that caught my eye when reading what you wrote, is this idea of the world “recently more than ever” experiencing the problem of mental illness inequalities. It reminded me of the quote we discussed in class by Benjamin, about the way that in many places in the world daily life could be considered an emergency by our privileged standards. Similarly, I feel it’s a little bit dangerous to point out crises and other emergency situations that we’re experiencing now but not acknowledge the more constant daily suffering that many people are experiencing. In doing so, it seems to not only elevate a certain kind of suffering, but also erase the other. This is not to say that I don’t agree with you and that we shouldn’t support those in crisis situations of course, or shouldn’t leverage crisis situations for support, but rather that we should also be very aware of the values and assumptions we are ascribing to when we do so. Basically, I think it raises interesting questions again about the kinds of suffering we prioritize, and how and why we do so.

    Secondly, I wanted to agree with the point you make with regards to Abromowitz’s description of the path of mental illness – that it seems pretty fatalistic and morbid, perhaps excessively so. Another ethnography I’ve read also talking about civil war, this in Mozambique, by Carolyn Nordstrom similarly recognizes the way moral systems disintegrate during war – but then also describes in detail the ways community members to bring those who have been traumatized or participated in violence back into the community, into a moral system, and stop cycles of vengeance and violence. Her account, in contrast, ends up being perhaps a bit idealistic or romanticized, but has some truth as well I think and provides an interesting counterpoint to the readings from class.

    More directly to your point however, I agree that the countries the refugees are going to should be aware of these potential developments and offer both preventative care, general psychological support, and comprehensive treatment for the refugees entering their countries. Unfortunately, soon, it seems, they might run into similar problems of access and number of available psychiatrists that we’ve talked about in developing countries however; it seems plausible that demand could outstrip supply… Do you have thoughts on responding to this as well?

    1. Allison,

      In your post you mention that you think “it is a little bit dangerous to point out crises and other emergency situations that we’re experiencing now but not acknowledge the more constant daily suffering that many people are experiencing.” In September, following the directions for this blog post (“Your blog post should take the form of an op-ed piece analyzing a current event reported in the media within the past 12 months that relates to your chosen topic.”), I found the crisis of the Syrian refugees to be very fitting for my chosen topic, trauma and violence. The Syrian refugees are experiencing suffering on a daily basis, and I don’t think it is fair to belittle their experience.

      In response to your question on how to respond to potential lack of access to physicians, I think it is important for the countries that these refugees are entering to have a large number of physicians awaiting their arrival. I think if these countries have a large supply of doctors and physicians, they should not lack access to them anytime soon.

  10. Hi Julianne,
    Thanks for your post! You brought up some really interesting questions. I think your comparison with the current situation with Syria and the reading on Liberia worked really with the topic. The mental health of the refugees is important to consider. And who is responsible for treating their mental health is a difficult question to answer. Ideally the countries that the refugees flee to would make an effort to provide support for their mental health. Sadly as you pointed out these countries are shutting their borders to prevent any more refugees because the surge in population was to large to adequately support. the moral obligation to reduce suffering , I think, will most likely fall into the hands of NGOs and humanitarian groups like MSF. Mental illness definitely should not be ignored but getting the appropriate resources are difficult in low-resource settings. i wonder what your opinions are on the best approach to tackling treating mental illness in refugee camps. Thanks again for your insights.

    1. Hacheming,

      Thanks for your comment! I appreciate your insight to this topic, and you recognize many valid points in the potential unintended consequences of this situation. To answer your question, I think the best approach to tackle treating mental illness in refugee camps falls in the hands of the provided physicians. It is important for these physicians to be well-trained in this specific area, and I think it is important to provide antidepressants where needed. I also think group therapy and individual therapy sessions may prove to be helpful. Overall, I think the best way to approach this issue is through proper diagnosing and treatment from physicians. It is essential for the countries who have welcomed these refugees to provide enough support from physicians.

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