Therapists and care professionals need to readdress the necessary treatments used to help refugee children struggling with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a type of anxiety disorder that can occur after you have gone through an extreme emotional trauma that involved the threat of injury or death. The pathology was approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA) as a disability, because of the mental disorder’s interference in the victim’s everyday life. PTSD, seen mostly in war refugees, does not target specific age groups and because of the ongoing war in Syria has lead to the clinical pathology afflicting millions of children. The involvement of clinical professionals is crucial to preventing another lost generation in the Syrian children being affected by war traumas every day.
Though it may seem like too much to ask, these treatments do not require walking into a war zone, but into the safe refugee camps, like the ones stationed on the border of Turkey, containing families from Syria that managed to escape the warzone. According to the Director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), Mouaz Moustafa, about 30% of the million registered Syrian refugees are staged on the border of turkey. Moustafa estimates that the number of children stationed on the border of turkey alone reach over 100,000. The SETF urges professionals to aid this cause, stating that families at these camps are desperate for clinical care of any kind, especially to help their children, who have developed psychological problems incomprehensible to adults who haven’t experienced war at a young age and have no way of remedying what their children are going through. There are also a number of orphans who lost their families to the war that need clinical help. The SETF has sent in a few psychologists who have taken initiative to help these children, but not nearly enough to help the thousands more left without help.
In an interview with psychologist Stacy Lopresti Goodman, a Psychology professor at Marymount University, Goodman stated that it is hard for untrained professional, such as the parents of these afflicted children, to identify clinical disorders like PTSD. This is because children exhibit different traits than adults and don’t know what is happening to them. According to and article written by New York Daily News health medicine and lifestyle author Tracy Miller “Almost half of the Syrian children in one Turkish refugee camp were found to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, a team of international researchers found. Three out of 4 had lost a loved one.” Statistics like this help to illustrate the number of children in need of clinical help.
Children with PTSD suffer from a number of symptoms. Other than severe anxiety and depression, sleep deprivation is a dangerous indication of PTSD. According to the article “Traumatic Experience and Sleep Disturbance in Refugee Children from the Middle East” by Edith Montgomery and Anders Foldspang, which studied sleep disturbance in 311 refugee children (3-15 years old) from the middle east, Middle Eastern children have a high risk of sleep disorders, which lead to diabetes, memory loss, and even suicide. The adults studied in this article reported sleep disturbance in their childhood, leading the experiment to focus on a tie between sleep disturbances in children who have experienced war trauma. These children were exposed to a variety of traumatic experiences like violent deaths of parents or grandparents. The results show that sleep disturbance does in fact have an association with PTSD and stress brought on from violence (10). Sleep is a crucial part of the development of children and efficiency in adults. In children, sleep deprivation and lack of quality sleep causes rifts in the intellectual development of children as well as memory loss, and loss of cognitive functions. If left untreated, these sleep disturbances can cause permanent damage in children.
Treating children with this type of disturbance sometimes requires the input of the family. According to The National Center for PTSD family therapy can help families understand PTSD and how it is treated, it can also help family members identify and treat their children in a way that can help them avoid long-lasting affects. Without clinical care conducted by professionals these children are put at serious risk. Therapy sessions such as family therapy do not necessarily have to last over a year, for as little as three months therapists can help families cope with the disorder. There are other treatment options for children affected with PTSD, like the ones discussed in “Practitioner Review: Assessment and treatment of refugee children and adolescents who have experienced war-related trauma.” The article, published in the Journal of Child psychology and Psychiatry by Kimberly A. Ehntholt and William Yule, focuses on the mental effects war has on refugee children such as post-traumatic stress disorder and trauma then goes on to discuss their assessment and treatment based on previous studies and experiments. Both authors of the article are professional psychologists with PHDs in their fields and in their article discuss specific therapy treatments used to treat refugee children suffering from PTSD. These treatments include cognitive behavioral, mere exposure, and testimonial psychotherapy. The article also addresses the importance of culture when treating refugee children stating, “Cultural differences need to be acknowledged and respected. It can be very helpful for the clinician to find out more about a young person’s country of origin and culture before the initial assessment” (45).
Children are not the only ones in need of psychological treatment. Many parents of these refugee children are suffering from severe PTSD that in turn effects their children’s well being. This relates to the importance of treating children currently suffering from PTSD because of the long lasting effects it has not only on the children for the remainder of there lives, but of there potential children. The article “Resilience and Vulnerability among Refugee Children of Traumatized and Non-traumatized Parents.” By Britt Klinteberg and Per-Anders Rydelius is a study that explores the effects traumatized parents suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder has on children (6- 17 years of age). The results of this case study found “there is a relationship between parental trauma and their children’s PTSD symptoms.” The results also showed that untreated PTSD in children would lead to a negative affect on future generations intelligence and self-esteem “Children in the traumatized parents group displayed behavioral and cognitive impairments manifested mainly as PTSD-related symptoms” (69).
Overall, PTSD in the millions of Syrian refugee children, if left untreated, will lead to long-lasting effects on not only the current generation affected by the war- but future ones. Organizations like the Syrian Emergency Task Force provide a safe way for these professional activists to help treat these children and make a difference in the war by ensuring the future health of the Syrian people.