Psychological Effects of Trauma on Syrian Refugees

War has a toll on both the mind and body, when analyzing the role trauma has on shaping one’s mental health we see there are lasting psychological effects that alter both physical and emotional well-being. Yet, in the case of war, mental health is often neglected because it is not pose an immediate threat to a person’s safety. Causing it to be overlooked, eventually leading to greater physical damage. This is the case in many refugee camps across the globe housing millions of Syrian refugees who are trying to escape the tragedy and loss of the Syrian Civil War. Specifically in bordering countries like Lebanon and Jordan who have hosted the largest Syrian refugee population worldwide. Organizations such as UNCHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) are trying to combat these issues by providing aid such as shelter, education, and medicine to refugees in camps across Europe and the Middle East, but resources are limited and due to overpopulation the bare necessities are only able to be given to a portion of refugees seeking aid.

Syria / Palestinian refugees / Closing of Al Tanf camp / A young Palestinian boy playing with a kite, a symbol of hope and liberty. / UNHCR / B. Diab / December 2009

The degradation of mental health in victims of war is a common side effect to trauma, a case study published in the Community Mental Health Journal states that “suicidal ideation was present in 9.1 % of patients hospitalized before the Syrian crisis and in 24.5 % of patients hospitalized after it…as for suicidal attempts, 6.8 % of patients hospitalized before the crisis had attempted suicide before admission in contrast to 14.2 % of patients admitted after the crisis” (Impact of the Syrian Crisis). Showing us, that trauma manifests itself internally and can have detrimental effects to a person’s well-being, therefore should be treated as immediately and with as much concern as a threat to one’s physical health. Even within refugee camps the shock of displacement, loss of family and friends, as well as the lack of employment and education continues to add stress to victims of war only worsening any psychological manifestations of trauma. There needs to be a focus on rehabilitation and access to medical attention that allows progression towards a reformative future.  

Although we cannot thoroughly look at the lasting psychological effects of Syrian refugees because the conflict is ongoing and very little is published directly about this topic, we can look at past conflicts and analyze the effects that poor living conditions and trauma have on the brain. There is evidence to show that the neglect on mental health manifests into severe illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder otherwise known as, PTSD, which especially has an impact on children, where during their developmental phase, the brain is still forming and such severe conditions can permanently alter the behavior, personality, and overall health throughout that child’s life (Trauma, War and Violence). Studies show that “prevalence rates of PTSD were reported, from 36% to 62%, among adult refugees… from 41% to 76%, among children” (Mental Health: A Systematic Review). Which highlights how there is a lack of assessment on mental health, especially in refugee camps, besides for people with pre-existing chronic conditions. The only way to help fix this problem is through education and systemic change of analyzing health-care, so we can then begin to fully understand and help displaced persons who have been affected by both war and trauma.


Works Cited:

Almoshmosh, Nadim. “The Role of War Trauma Survivors in Managing Their Own Mental Conditions, Syria Civil War as an Example.” Avicenna Journal of Medicine vol. 6, no. 2 (2016): 54–59. PMC. Web. DOI 10.4103/2231-0770.179554, Accessed 16 Mar. 2017.

Constanze Quosh, Liyam Eloul & Rawan Ajlani. “Mental health of refugees and displaced persons in Syria and surrounding countries: a Systematic Review” Intervention: International Journal of Mental Health, Psychosocial Work & Counselling in Areas of Armed Conflict, vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 276 – 294, Accessed 16 March 2017.

Diab, B.  “Closing of Al Tanf camp.” 2009. History of UNHCR Syria, United Nations  High Commissioner for Refugees,

Jong, Joop T. V. M. de. Trauma, War, and Violence : Public Mental Health in Socio-Cultural Context. Springer, 2002. The Plenum Series on Stress and Coping. EBSCOhost,,url,cookie,uid&db=nlebk&AN=78583&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Accessed 16 March 2017.

Lama, Souaiby. Francois, Kazour. Marwan, Zoghbi. Sami, Richa. “Impact of the Syrian Crisis on the Hospitalization of Syrians in a Psychiatric Setting” Community Mental Health Journal, Springer Nature, January 2016, vol. 52, Issue 1, pp. 84–93, DOI:10.1007/s10597-015-9891-3. Accessed 16 March 2017.