Refugee Children, Adults Plagued by High Rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

By Kirkup, Kristy | The Canadian Press, November 25, 2015 | Go to article overview

Refugee Children, Adults Plagued by High Rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder


Kirkup, Kristy, The Canadian Press


Refugee adults, children plagued by PTSD

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OTTAWA - Refugee children and adults around the world are plagued by high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, say Canadian mental health experts who hope more resources will be offered to Syrian newcomers.

Dr. Morton Beiser, a psychiatric epidemiologist from St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, says research indicates up to 20 to 50 per cent of refugee children suffer from PTSD, while 10 to 15 per cent of adults are affected.

"I don't think that we are sufficiently equipped yet to deal that," Beiser said. "It is important that we develop resources quickly and effectively ... We really have to get our act together."

Refugees who suffer from PTSD often relive their trauma, Beiser added.

"Post-traumatic stress disorder ... is an awful disorder," he said. "It is a disorder in which people experience horrible situations that they've been in, they're back in the torture cell, they're back being raped."

Mental health challenges for refugees also go far beyond PTSD, said Dr. Kwame McKenzie.

The medical director for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health says newcomers also face higher risks of developing substance abuse problems, depression and schizophrenia.

"The truth is, the studies have shown that the rates of mental-health problems are increased, for every mental-health problem," he said.

McKenzie said he is pleased the federal government plans to help refugees settle immediately in host communities.

Unlike the 5,000 refugees who came to Canada from Kosovo in 1999, Syrians will not be housed on military bases unless it is deemed necessary.

"Some of the studies that have been seen worldwide say that you can decrease the risk significantly if you're careful about what you do when people come to the country," he said.

The effects of conflict, displacement, travel and family separation were all considered when the federal government crafted its plan, Health Minister Jane Philpott said Tuesday as the Liberals announced they intend to bring 10,000 refugees to Canada by year's end and another 15,000 by February.

"Mental health concerns are amongst the concerns that we expect to see," Philpott said. …

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