So Much Mental Illness -- So Few Psychiatrists in Iraq

July 8, 2010

After years of war, more and more Iraquis are seeking medical care for trauma-induced mental illness. However, demand for such treatment far outpaces supply. In a country of 30 million people, only 100 psychiatrists are available to offer care.

After years of war, more and more Iraquis are seeking medical care for trauma-induced mental illness. According to The Washington Post,1 however, demand for such treatment far outpaces supply. In a country of 30 million people, only 100 psychiatrists are available to offer care. Iraq’s only long-term mental health institution saw a 10% increase in patients this year, but doctors have had to turn patients away from the government-funded facility because of overcrowding.

Reporter Leila Fadel quotes a patient at a central Baghdad psychiatric hostpial as saying “I found my neighbors on the ground, children dead on the ground. I’m scared. I’m very scared.”
 

Many traumatized Iraqis attempt self-medication. Prescription drug use is now the country’s leading substance abuse problem. Tihexyphenidyl (Artane), which has pronounced sedative effects and is known locally as the “pill of courage,” is currently the most abused prescription medication. Some turn to music for comfort, but with the Mahdi Army-a Shiite militia that prohibits music-in control of some local neighborhoods, there is fear of reprimand or death for such “therapy.”

 

Related Content:

PTSD: http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/ptsd

 

References:

1. Fadel L. Iraq ill-equipped to cope with an epidemic of mental illness. Washington Post. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/17/AR2010061706034.html?sub=AR