02 Apr 2018

MSF - Experts Meet to Discuss Mental Health in Post-Conflict Iraq

Erbil in 1 April 2018

Experts meet to discuss mental health in post-conflict Iraq

Medical professors and mental health experts will join a panel debate tomorrow in Erbil to discuss the recent period of conflict in Iraq and how it has impacted on people’s mental health and their ability to cope with successive displacement and traumatic events.

Professor Dr Sirwan Kamil Ali and Assistant Professors Dr Asmaa Ghanem and Dr Banaz Adnan from Hawler Medical University, and Dr Joelle Vernet and Dr Geri Dyer from Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) will be part of the panel discussion and will take questions from an audience of medical students, non-government organisations and government officials. The Kurdistan Regional Government Minister of Health, Dr Rekawt H. Rashid Karim, will also attend the event and give the opening address.

Panellist Dr Joelle Vernet said addressing mental health now in Iraq would be vital for rebuilding communities and the country. 

“Many Iraqis have experienced years of violence. They have lost their loved ones, livelihoods, homes and dignity,” she said. “People are resilient to a certain point, but exposure to continuous trauma eventually takes its toll.”

“Today’s panel discussion is an important step in reviewing the impact of conflict on people’s mental health in Iraq, the type of treatment required, the availability of services and the capacity – both nationally and internationally – to respond to this mental health crisis.”

“The panellists will also discuss children’s mental health and why it’s often difficult for parents to recognise when their children need help, and how medical doctors must play an essential role in identifying and referring cases.”

Jalila*, 41, is one of the many Iraqis suffering from mental health issues following the conflict. She lives in a camp for displaced people in central Iraq and has participated in group and individual counselling sessions with MSF. 

“I don’t have a home. My home is destroyed. Mothers have lost children. Wives have lost husbands. We lost everything,” Jalila said. “Sometimes I get nervous from thinking too much and I get angry. When we come to the (MSF) sessions it helps us. It relieves our minds and what we have in our hearts.”

MSF has been working in Iraq since 1991 and currently has medical projects in eight governorates. The organisation has teams of qualified medical doctors, psychologists and counsellors who provide vital care and support for moderate and severe mental health cases, including post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), depression, schizophrenia and severe anxiety.

From July to December 2017, MSF provided almost 11,000 individual mental health consultations for internally displaced people and returnees in Iraq.

The panel discussion will take place at the Van Royal Hotel, Erbil, at 10am tomorrow, Monday 2 April. The event has been organised in collaboration with Hawler Medical University and MSF.

*Name changed to protect her identity.


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