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One-in-five people suffer mental illness in conflict areas

By Chris Kiwawulo

Added 12th June 2019 04:08 PM

The report posted on the UN website yesterday shows that around 22% of those affected suffer depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.

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The report posted on the UN website yesterday shows that around 22% of those affected suffer depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.

MENTAL HEALTH
 
More than one-in-five people living in conflict-affected areas suffer from a mental illness, a new report based on UN figures has revealed.
 
This has prompted the World Health Organisation (WHO) to call for increased, sustained investment in mental health services in conflict zones.
 
The report posted on the UN website yesterday shows that around 22% of those affected suffer depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.
 
These figures were reached at after an analysis of 129 studies published in The Lancet – a United Kingdom-based peer-reviewed medical journal.
 
“The new estimates, together with already available practical tools for helping people with mental health conditions in emergencies, add yet more weight to the argument for immediate and sustained investment, so that mental and psychosocial support is made available to all people in need living through conflict and its aftermath,” said study author Mark van Ommeren, who works in WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.
 
Uganda is one of the countries that have for years suffered conflicts, some ethnically-generated and others arising out of political disagreements.
 
In conflict situations and other humanitarian emergencies, WHO said it provides support by coordinating and assessing the mental health needs of populations affected and determining the existing support available on the ground and what more is needed. WHO also helps to provide support capacity, either through training or bringing in additional resources.
 
The study also shows that about 9% of conflict-affected populations have a moderate to severe mental health condition; substantially higher than the global estimate for these mental health conditions in the general population.
 
“Depression and anxiety appeared to increase with age in conflict settings, and depression was more common among women than men,” the study observes.
 
The revised estimates use data from 39 countries published between 1980 and August 2017, categorised cases as mild, moderate or severe. Natural disasters and public health emergencies, such as recent Ebola virus outbreaks in Africa, were not included.
 
The findings suggested that past studies underestimated the burden of mental health conditions in conflict-affected areas, showing increased rates of severe, moderate and mild mental health issues, with the latter being the most prevalent.
 
“I am confident that our study provides the most accurate estimates available today of the prevalence of mental health conditions in areas of conflict”, said the lead author of the study Fiona Charlson of the University of Queensland, Australia and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, in the United States.
 
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