It is found that 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health issue at least once in their lifetime1. Mental health is a rising concern not only in the Canadian community but around the world. In countries of war this concern is even greater. The terror and traumatizing events which come with war contribute to a significantly higher occurrence of mental health issues. In Iraq, a country which has faced war for the past few decades, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and other psychiatric illnesses have become increasingly common among the general population.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the fourth most prominent illness in Iraqis over the age of 5 are mental health disorders2. Within Iraqi society, children are amongst the most vulnerable to psychological distress. A 2006 research study, which assessed children and adolescents in different cities in Iraq, found 14%-36% showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)2. In Mosul, one of the regions which has faced a great amount of terror and where PTSD rates were in the highest range, less than 10% of children who were facing mental health illnesses were receiving any form of treatment or care2. The future of these children who have been raised throughout the war is at great risk, as the stress they face now can significantly impact their long-term development and functioning.
Along with children, women are also amongst the most at risk in society towards mental health disorders. With roughly 10% of Iraqi society being made up of unsupported women and children, it is no shock that this group would face severe psychological stress. Unsupported widows face daily stress due not only to the loss of loved ones, but also not being able to provide for themselves or their children and facing the societal stigmas that come with being a widow. In Iraq there is a common expectation in many cities that women do not leave the home unaccompanied. This results in many widows being isolated from society. In many displacement camps, life can become extremely difficult for these women due to not being able to collect groceries or visit health clinics since they lack a male to accompany them.
Important to consider is the fact that most studies reflecting the state of mental health in Iraq were conducted before the invasion of ISIS into Iraq. Since then, with millions being displaced and terrorized we can expect that the incidence of mental health disorders has increased. In response to this crisis, the Zahra Trust is working to develop a mental health clinic to address these concerns, with a specific target on the women and adolescent girls who have been affected by war and poverty. Women are the foundation of Iraqi society, they are mothers, teachers, health care workers and more. By investing into the future of women and adolescent girls to overcome their traumas, the clinic will facilitate a brighter future for them and their entire community.
The mental health clinic will have qualified professionals specializing in mental health disorders, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. It will provide specialized counselling as well as programmes catered to address the needs of the community. There will also be educational programs educating the community about mental health, the realities of it and addressing stigmas which may be present. It is hoped that by educating the community about the reality of mental health it will increase the percentage of individuals who actually seek treatment and get help. Catered to the women there will also be workshops on career empowerment, nutrition and other lifestyle factors which will facilitate stronger mental health. With the emphasis on women and children, it is hopeful that this clinic will facilitate a brighter future for the community.
This project is a work in development and will require much support to make it happen. Individuals with a background in mental health care are urged to get in contact with us at email@example.com should they wish to get involved. Should you wish to donate to the development of this clinic and more services for disadvantaged children or individuals in Iraq visit justgiving.com/orphansvillage.