Syrian children suffer ’toxic stress’ - Report

Syrian children suffer ’toxic stress’ - Report
Children inside Syria are suffering from "toxic stress," a severe form of psychological trauma that can cause life-long damage, according to a report released by an NGO on Tuesday.

The report by the nonprofit Save the Children paints a horrifying picture of terrified children developing speech disorders and incontinence, and some even losing the capacity to speak. Others attempt self-harm and suicide.

Save the Children says its study is the largest of its kind into the mental health and well-being of Syria’s children amid the war. Authors of the study warned that the nation’s mental health crisis had reached a tipping point, where "staggering levels" of trauma and distress among children could cause permanent and irreversible damage.

"We are failing children inside Syria, some of whom are being left to cope with harrowing experiences, from witnessing their parents killed in front of them to the horrors of life under siege, without proper support," said Marcia Brophy, a mental health adviser for Save the Children in the Middle East.

Researchers spoke with 450 children, adolescents and adults in seven of Syria’s 14 governorates.

Adults said the main cause of psychological stress is the constant shelling and bombardment that characterize the war.

Half the children the researchers talked to said they never or rarely feel safe at school and 40 percent said they don’t feel safe to play outside, even right outside their own home.

More than 70 percent of children interviewed experienced common symptoms of "toxic stress" or post-traumatic stress disorder, such as bedwetting, the study found. Loss of speech, aggression and substance abuse are also commonplace. About 48 percent of adults reported seeing children who have lost the ability to speak or who have developed speech impediments since the war began, according to the report.

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