Invisible Wounds: the impact of 6 years of war on the mental health of Syria’s children

The report – the largest and most comprehensive study undertaken inside Syria into children’s mental health and wellbeing during the war – found that Syria is now at a “tipping point” where millions of children have been so consistently exposed to “toxic stress” that their chances of recovering fully are dwindling by the day.

• Findings show 84% of adults and almost all children believe ongoing bombing and shelling is the number one cause of psychological stress in children’s daily lives
• 50% of children say they never or rarely feel safe at school and 40% say they don’t feel safe to play outside, even right outside their own home.
• 89% of adults said children’s behaviour has become more fearful and nervous as the war goes on
• 71% said that children increasingly suffer from frequent bedwetting and involuntary urination
• Experts say we are reaching a crisis point; if the war does not end soon and children don’t receive the psychological support they need, it will be much harder to repair the damage when they reach adulthood.

A new report by Save the Children has revealed a mental health crisis among children trapped in Syria, as the war approaches the six year mark.

The charity and its Syrian partners interviewed more than 450 children, adolescents and adults across seven governorates in Syria for “Invisible Wounds”, the largest study of its kind conducted during the course of the conflict. It found that many children are living in an almost constant state of fear, terrified by shelling, airstrikes and ongoing violence, with devastating psychological consequences.

Mental health experts consulted for this report said it showed children are suffering from a condition called ‘toxic stress’, which can occur when children experience strong, frequent or prolonged adversity¸ such as the extreme violence occurring in the Syria conflict. Continuous toxic stress response can have a life-long impact on children’s mental and physical health.

The research revealed how the war has ruined childhoods. Almost half of children interviewed said they did not feel safe at school or playing outside. In interviews and focus groups, it was found that 78% of children feel grief and extreme sadness some or all of the time and almost all adults said children had become more nervous or fearful as the war has gone on.

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