People in Somalia are deeply traumatized by political instability, persistent violence and humanitarian crises, says a new health survey.
A joint study by the United Nations, Somalia’s Ministry of Health and the country’s national university found that mental disorders are prevalent throughout the country. It said there were about 77% more cases than an earlier study by the World Health Organization (WHO), which suggested that about 40% of Somalia’s population have mental or psychological disorders.
The study further states that the prevalence of mental disorders among young people is significantly higher than previously reported.
“Various psychiatric disorders (76.9%), substance abuse disorders (lifetime, 53.3%, current, 50.6%) have high prevalence, wide coverage, and poor quality of life in both nonclinical and clinical populations. ‘ said the study. Said.
The survey obtained by the VOA Somali Service was conducted between 25 October and 15 November 2021. Data were collected from his 713 participants in the towns of Baidoa, Kismayo, and Dolow. The majority of participants (68.1%) were younger than his 35 years of age and 58.5% were male.
All three towns are hosting internally displaced people affected by conflict and drought, forcing idyllic communities to migrate to urban areas in search of food, water and safety.
“Conflicts and clashes have resulted in mental illness as we face many of these challenges in our country,” a young man from Kismayo who was interviewed for the study told researchers. “For example, an explosion can occur and witnesses can live with shock and trauma that affects their state of mind and can lead to mental illness. Stress from unemployment also leads to mental health problems. ”
The study is a collaboration between WHO, the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Federal Ministry of Health, and the Somali National University (SNU).
According to the WHO, which led the study, this is the first mental health epidemiological study in Somalia.
WHO Country Representative Dr Mamnur Rahman Malik said:
“A previous WHO study suggested that only 40% of the population in Somalia may have a mental disorder or disorder. Yes, and this is a high prevalence,” Malik told VOA.
Somali Health Minister Dr Ali Haji Adam agrees that the population’s mental health is “very bad”.
“For a long time there has been armed conflict, poverty, fear, instability and unemployment. This is causing psychological scars,” Adam said. “They can’t deal with what’s happening in front of them. Mothers and children are being killed in front of them and it’s damaging their mental health.”
According to Malik, the alarming finding is that the most common mental illnesses in this population are panic disorder and post-traumatic disorder.
“Panic disorder 39%, post-traumatic disorder 37%. And this is among the younger age groups,” Malik said.
He said it can lead to suicidal tendencies if left untreated. said to be watching. According to this new study, the suicide risk among young people in Somalia is 22 per 100,000.
The authors of the study said this was surprising for a community where Islam is the dominant religion and teachings forbid suicide. Patients were strongly encouraged to discuss suicidal ideation during evaluation.
Another finding of this study is the high prevalence of substance abuse among young people.
Adam said young people most affected by mental illness are turning to substance abuse.
“Young people with ambitions and futures who cannot fulfill their ambitions and aspirations will not find jobs that face the psychological pressure,” Adam told VOA. “They may turn to substance abuse.” is expensive
Malik agrees that desperate situations and lack of adequate access to mental health facilities are driving mental patients to abuse prohibited substances.
“Those are coping mechanisms, but this is self-destruction, and that’s the element that worries me the most,” he said.
According to Malik, the most common substance used was tobacco at 38%, followed by sedatives at 37%, which are not regulated in the country.
He said Somalia is the only country that has not ratified the WHO’s international treaty on tobacco control. He called on the Somali government to commit to ratifying and regulating tobacco and opiate drug abuse.
“These young people have no hope for the future and make up 70% of the population in this country, so we are actually in danger of losing an entire generation,” Malik said. Instead of using them as a human asset, we are at risk of losing them.There is a huge burden of mental health and substance abuse which makes them unproductive and a huge financial burden. It’s because there is one.”
An increase in mental illness can be seen in mental health care clinics.
Dr. Liban Mohamed Omar opened a mental health clinic eight months ago after returning from Europe. His clinic and psychiatric center see dozens of patients each week, he said.
“Of the patients I’ve had, two to three out of four have mental health issues,” Omar told VOA.
In addition to the political and social turmoil in the country, women face certain problems that exacerbate their mental health situation.
“Women face many [cases of] Abuse like rape,” Omar said.
Omar cites a lack of awareness and a lack of skilled mental health workers and services, forcing many to resort to substance abuse and even consider taking their lives.
Researchers see improving mental health as an integral part of peacebuilding in Somalia, a country that has been in a civil war since its collapse in 1991.
Malik said the mental health burden is high in conflict-affected countries.
“These young people who had a heavy mental health burden could be easy targets for radical forces because they are disillusioned young people,” Malik said.
“Our hypothesis is that if these people can be socially integrated after dealing with mental health conditions, social cohesion and community reconciliation will increase and these psychotic youth will become targets for extremists. It means that there is a possibility that it will lead to peacebuilding so that they will not become irrelevant, so that they can contribute to society.”
According to Malik, only 5-10% of Somalia’s primary health centers are currently able to provide mental health services, far fewer than is needed.
“The total number of mental health professionals in Somalia is 82 with a population of over 15 million,” Malik said. “There are fewer than 1 in a population of 100,000 when compared by mental health professionals, so the future depends on investing in mental health his services at the primary health care level.
The study recommends training frontline health workers, raising awareness, and regular screening for psychiatric disorders at the primary care level.