Prof. Selcuk Sirin’s on BBC World News

Prof. Selcuk Sirin’s on BBC World News

The mental health needs of Syrian refugee
children and he joins me now from New York. The psychological scars for anyone
who’s witness conflict or is living as a refugee are, are immense. What
particularly though is the suffering for the children? Well in, you know war is
very difficult to comprehend, losing your home or family members is difficult for
any person. For children who experience this of course, you need to
really put yourself in a child’s mind. It’s, it’s unimaginable. In our study we
found huge numbers in terms of like, 80% of the children said that
they lost somebody in their family for example. So they lost a family member,
they witnessed a lot of horror and they are no longer living in their homes, no
longer going to school. So for children this is unimaginable, and that is really
adding to the case where any human being suffer, children suffer even more. And
they are seeing the stress in some cases, the delirium and the mental consequences
of it in adults, but what does it mean for children? what are the symptoms they
are displaying and what does it mean further down the line perhaps in terms
of adolescence and adulthood? Well in our study we actually use a standardized
measure of PTSD and we found about 45% of our participants, this was at a
refugee camp. 45% of them experienced a clinical level of
post-traumatic stress disorder, this is 10 times more than what you
would observe in a typical population. So, that by itself with, we also looked into
depression that was also at a higher, much higher level than expected. That
puts them at risk in terms of sleeping, in terms of eating, in terms of social
interactions and of course in terms of their development. Their you know,
childhood, is a precious time. There are many critical milestones that children,
typical children have to go through and that’s what these kids will be suffering
from or disadvantage because they won’t be able to learn, they won’t
be able to pay attention, they won’t be able to develop physically at a
typical pace because of the barriers that they have already witnessed. Unless
these barriers are addressed unfortunately, the research is very clear
PTSD is a post-traumatic stress disorder. So, it’s post the trauma and if they are
not addressed then we are talking about another lost generation. What, yes, people use that expression lost generation, but how much therapy do these
children need and presumably unfortunately, it would be impossible to
give them what they need in the camps where they’re living now or where they
are traveling around Europe? Well actually the camps in Turkey, where
we did some of these studies, they are receiving the help service that they
needed. I mean they’re one of the best serve children, the problem is only a
small number of children are now living in camps. Most of them are no longer
living in camps and the Turkish government, compared to some of
the other places where they receive large numbers of refugees is doing a
good job. The problem is about 90% of the children are no longer living in camps,
the traditional delivery of mental health service is not an option for this
population because we simply do not have the professional services in place. You
know, you need to have Arabic speakers, you need to have that many
psychologist, that’s not the case. However, children are very resilient, you know, if
you invest in these children, in this generation, in terms of creational
activities, in terms of after-school programs, in terms of just a typical
school setting, they will thrive. We know that children are resilient, we know that
they can come back from this horror that they have experienced, but we have to
invest and there, we really have a choice as humanity. Do we invest in the future
of 2-3 million children or witness another horror that we have witnessed in
in Africa, that we have witnessed in Central Asia, on the borders between
Pakistan and Afghanistan and the most recently in the Middle East? Unless we
address the immediate and long-term needs of these children, in terms of
providing education, in terms of providing mental health, we will end up
finding ourselves in another situation where terrorist
organizations, crime organizations recruiting some of these children
because they simply do not have another option.
Okay, professor Sirin, thank you very much indeed, ….

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