The impact of six years of war on the mental health of Syria’s children
“We don’t see the result of this conflict right now. We’re going to see the results and consequences in the coming years. We’re going to see a generation that’s uneducated or barely educated. A generation that’s emotionally destroyed. We need a generation that will build the new Syria.” Mohammad, a youth worker in Idlib, Syria
For the past six years, children in Syria have been bombed and starved. They have seen their friends and families die before their eyes or buried under the rubble of their homes. They have watched their schools and hospitals destroyed, been denied food, medicine and vital aid, and been torn apart from their families and friends as they flee the fighting. The psychological toll of living through six years wondering if today will be their last is enormous.
Research for Invisible Wounds – the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind undertaken inside Syria into children’s mental health and wellbeing during the war – revealed heartbreaking accounts of children terrified by the shelling and airstrikes, anxious about the future, and distraught at not being able to go to school. The majority of children we spoke with show signs of severe emotional distress.
If the right support is provided now, these children may be able to recover. Programmes offering mental health and psychosocial support have shown remarkable results, which could and should be significantly scaled up across the country. To do so will require adequate funding, proper humanitarian access and a new global commitment to Syria’s children. Ultimately, children need the main cause of their toxic stress – the violence that continues to rain down on Syria’s villages and cities with impunity – to end.