Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Newsweek asks, "Do the Taliban Get PTSD?"

In a headline sure to draw attention, Newsweek asks, Do the Taliban Get PTSD?

It's an over-simplified question, but the truth, as Newsweek itself points out, is that after decades of non-stop war and aggression, just about everyone in Afghanistan probably has some form of psychological trauma:

Combat-related mental problems are a fact of life for just about everyone in Afghanistan, of course. According to Dr. Suraya Dalil, Afghanistan’s health minister, 60 percent of the population is suffering from mental-health problems, thanks not only to the war but to the country's extreme poverty and woefully inadequate health care. "Mental illness among the people is as common as malaria," says Mullah Mohammad. "It's alarming, but not surprising, that there are so many psychologically disturbed people in Afghanistan," says Dr. Wahab Yousafzai, a Pakistani psychiatrist who runs training courses for Afghan physicians who work in provincial health-care centers. "Common people feel helpless. Death can come at any minute from U.S. and NATO forces or the Taliban."

We've seen the same in other countries that have experienced war and struggle stretching across multiple generations, such as Sri Lanka, Ireland, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Cyprus to name a few.

The main question really isn't the one that Newsweek asks, but how many generations it will take Afghanistan and other countries to cleanse themselves of the pain of trauma.

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