23:11 GMT03 December 2020
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    Six years of war have taken their toll on the mental health of Syrian children. According to the international Save the Children foundation, a large proportion of Syrian adolescents have developed major psychological problems that may degenerate into irreversible disorders, paving the way for a "lost generation.

    Every fourth Syrian child was found to be struggling with suicidal thoughts, self-harm, substance abuse and/or depression, a survey conducted by Save the Children reveals. Two out of three children surveyed also answered they had lost a loved one, had their home destroyed or sustained war-related injuries themselves, the Norwegian news portal ABC Nyheter reported.

    "Three million Syrian children have lived their whole lives under war. If we are to prevent long-term mental problems and irreparable damage, they must get immediate help," Save the Children Norway Secretary General Tove R. Wang told ABC Nyheter.

    Besides impeding the development of the brain, war trauma's post-traumatic stress disorders are known to increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, depression and addiction among children and have lingering physical effects.

    Save the Children surveyed 458 children and adolescents in all 14 of Syria's provinces (governorates) to coincide with the sixth anniversary of the Syrian war. Of those interviewed, 80 percent said they had become more aggressive, 71 percent were suffering from bedwetting and involuntary urination, 51 percent were resorting to drugs to cope and 50 percent admitted that they never feel safe, be it at home or at school. These are possibly signs of so-called "toxic stress," i.e. prolonged stress that can lead to life-long issues with learning, behavior and health.

    Another major challenge is that many children and youth were found to have been recruited by various armed groups, which makes them particularly susceptible to a deeper trauma that will follow them into adulthood. More than half of the adults interviewed in the survey said they knew children and young people that had been brainwashed or forcibly recruited by armed groups.

    Save the Children argued that the international community has largely failed the children inside Syria, many of whom have to deal with their horrific experiences without any assistance. One of four children surveyed admitted that they do not have anyone to talk to or nowhere to go when they are scared, sad or upset. All in all, access to psychologists and psychiatrists is almost non-existent.

    According to the survey, explosions, violence and lynching have become commonplace. Eight out of ten adults and nearly all children surveyed ascribed the traumas to the continuous warfare.

    An estimated 3.7 million Syrian children — 1 in 3 of all Syrian children — has been born since the conflict began five years ago, their lives shaped by violence, fear and displacement, according to a UNICEF report. Over 4.9 million Syrians are refugees, while another 6.1 million are displaced within Syria; half of those affected are children.

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    post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), children's rights, children, Middle East, Syria
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