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.
- 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?