Trauma from war and violence has led to a high incidence of psychological disorders in Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
The international medical nongovernmental organization Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders reports that even short-term psychological support can ease the burden of violence-induced psychiatric disorders, especially in children.
Emmanuelle Espié of the Paris-based Epicentre and colleagues from Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, along with researchers from four French hospitals shared data collected from Palestinian patients ages 1 year and older referred to the Médecins Sans Frontières psychological care program.
Data was gathered from 1,369 patients (773 from the Gaza strip and 596 from the Nablus area) who received psychological care between January 2005 and December 2008. All patients in the study were clinically assessed by a psychologist or psychiatrist.
The patients were evenly divided between male and female with a median age of 16 years. Among the 1,254 patients for whom full clinical information was available, 23.2 percent had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), 17.3 percent had an anxiety disorder (other than PTSD or acute stress disorder), and 15.3 percent had depression.
PTSD was more frequently identified in children under age 15, while depression was the main symptom observed in adults. Among children under 15, factors significantly associated with PTSD included being witness to murder or physical abuse, receiving threats, and property destruction or loss.