Health in the Middle East: Psychological implications of Iraqi invasion

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.333.7575.971-a (Published 02 November 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:971
  1. Michael E Reschen, senior house officer general medicine (Mreschen{at}doctors.org.uk)
  1. John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford OX3 9DU

    EDITOR—In a rapid response to Dyer's news item, Rana highlights the risks of psychological damage on the Iraqi population stemming from their exposure to an apparent vast increase in violent death.12 Previous studies have shown that 8% of men and 20% of women who are directly exposed to life threatening violence go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder in the following weeks. This becomes a chronic disorder lasting years in up to 30% of these people.3 With over 500 000 violent deaths there will no doubt have been many more people exposed to grave violence. It therefore seems likely that the nation of Iraq may suffer a double blow, firstly by losing a sizeable proportion of its population—and the study shows that 15-45 year olds are most commonly affected—and secondly by the serious consequences of people with post-traumatic stress disorder. This may also be compounded by cultural barriers that prevent people from seeking psychological help.

    The mainstay of the coalition's medical effort has been directed at assisting with basic medical help and treating injured civilians in Iraqi or coalition hospitals. The medical literature provides ample examples of rebuilding psychiatric facilities in a post-war era, most notably the experiences of doctors in former Yugoslavia.4 We must learn the lessons of history and expedite the psychiatric help for Iraqi civilians.4


    • Competing interests None declared.


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