Iraqis Resilient but Mental Health Care Lacking: UN

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Iraqis Resilient but Mental Health Care Lacking: UN

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A U.S. soldier takes up position as he guards during the reopening of a school in Baghdad's Hurriya district in this March 5, 2009 picture. (REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen)

BAGHDAD - Iraqis have displayed surprising resilience to
years of bloodshed but mental health problems often go untreated in
Iraq, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a study released on
Saturday.

A mental health survey published in the journal World Psychiatry
found mental disorders amongst Iraqis are no more prevalent than in
peaceful countries, contrary to what might be expected given the
violence unleashed by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and years of war
before that.

"Stress levels are high while mental disorders are comparable to
other countries. This suggests Iraqis have had to develop coping
strategies to survive during the past few decades of unrest," Naeema Al
Gasseer, the WHO's representative to Iraq, said in a statement.

"Stress has had an impact on the entire population and conflict has become almost a normal occurrence."

The sectarian violence that nearly tore Iraq apart in 2006-2007 has
largely subsided but many Iraqis remain traumatized by those years.

Despite a steep drop in violence, militants still carry out devastating bomb attacks, especially in the volatile north.

The study, which surveyed 4,332 adults, found that 16.5 percent of
Iraqis have mental health problems but only 2.2 percent of those had
received medical treatment.

"This is a matter of great concern...when you consider the emotional
distress experienced by so many during the recent past," Iraqi Health
Minister Saleh Al Hassnawi said.

"In Iraq, there is considerable stigma attached to having a mental
illness. We must encourage people to come forward and seek the
treatment they need,"

The survey also found anxiety and behavioral disorders had afflicted Iraqi women more than men.

Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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