Iraq’s Mental Health Crisis
Speaking of treating Iraqis as human beings and not abstractions, Erica Goode has a moving piece in today’s New York Times about the decline of a respected Baghdad mental hospital:
Dr. Hussain, who entered his profession at a time when Iraqi doctors were among the most sophisticated and highly trained in the Middle East, is caught in a time warp in a war-torn land where knowledge and sophistication have been largely overwhelmed by third-world decay, and ancient equipment has plunged some treatments into a “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” barbarism, despite the best intentions.
He cares for patients whose illnesses are often set off or worsened by the mayhem around them, who crowd into his tiny office at Ibn Rushid psychiatric hospital in central Baghdad, accompanied by their mothers and aunts, wives and brothers.
The litany of death and misery they recite no longer shocks him.
“We are used to hearing it, and I think our emotions are frozen,” he says.
I recall reading a few years ago that the biggest contraband in Baghdad were antidepressants. When you think about it, how could Iraq’s constant states of war — from the Saddamist terror to the Iran-Iraq nightmare to the Gulf War to sanctions to occupation to sectarian calamity — not lead to psychological scarring? Consider as well that mental health doesn’t suddenly return when the Americans leave. These are the lives of real people, and they’ve been devastated.