As Canada prepares to open its doors for even more refugees from Iraq and Syria, health experts have begun warning that the country is facing an uphill battle on one particular issue: refugees from a war zone are much more likely to suffer from mental health issues and develop substance abuse problems.
As reported by Tech Times and The Canadian Press, refugees from war zones and refugee camps often face post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and governments welcoming refugees expect this. However, PTSD is just the tip of the iceberg.
Refugees are more likely to develop depression and schizophrenia, said psychiatrist Dr. Kwame McKenzie of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health. When people are displaced from their homes and their cultures, he explained, the risk of developing a mental illness or a substance abuse problem increases drastically.
For this reason, Canadian officials have stated that they plan on housing incoming refugees in host communities rather than on military bases, which is how the government responded to 5,000 refugees from Kosovo in 1999.
As a recent HealthDay article shows, plenty of research has been conducted on the physical ailments that refugees are likely to face — even down to the most common physical conditions for refugees from specific countries. And as the Detroit News noted, western countries like the U.S. have very strict and very extensive screenings in place for incoming refugees, some of which address possible health concerns.
But actually providing the necessary treatment, and also addressing the mental health concerns of refugees, is not such an easy task. Even treating a common condition like heart disease, which is the cause of death for 84% of Americans over 65, can be nearly impossible without the assistance of an extraordinary translator or a multilingual doctor.
All of these concerns will certainly have to be addressed as Canada continues welcoming refugees. It has already pledged to bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015, and the federal government announced that it would welcome at least 15,000 more refugees from Syria by February 2016.