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Post-War Afghans Experience High Rates Of Mental Illness
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 4, 2004

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS--Two studies published in the August 4 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, have found that mental illness is prevalent in Afghanistan, and that the country lacks adequate services to address the problem.

Both studies attributed the mental conditions to decades of armed conflict, first with the Soviet Union and later with Coalition Forces, along with repression and trauma under the regimes of the mujahideen and the Taliban.

One study, based on a survey conducted in 2002 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies, found that a slightly larger percentage of people with disabilities experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression than other Afghans. Post-traumatic stress disorder also ran high in both populations.

"A total of 407 respondents (62 percent) reported experiencing at least four trauma events during the past 10 years," the authors found. "The most common trauma events experienced by the respondents were lack of food and water (56.1 percent) for nondisabled persons and lack of shelter (69.7 percent) for disabled persons."

The second study found particularly high levels of anxiety, depression and PTSD in Nangarhar province in early 2003. This region borders Pakistan and is where the Taliban movement originated. It is also where Coalition Forces bombarded caves thought to hide members of the terrorist group Al Qaeda.

"Prevalence's of symptoms of depression and anxiety and symptom criteria for PTSD were high even when compared with those symptoms of other communities traumatized by war and conflict,5 and were higher for women than for men," that study's authors wrote.

Mental Health, Social Functioning, and Disability in Postwar Afghanistan (Journal of the American Medical Association)
Mental Health Symptoms Following War and Repression in Eastern Afghanistan (Journal of the American Medical Association)

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