'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Different Perspective on the Occupation 

In light of the President's speech tonight about the purported cessation of hostilities in Iraq, it might be worthwhile to consider the following:

The great number of Iraqi children affected by post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the saddest, and least known, legacies of the Iraq war.

That a new clinic for their treatment — opened last August in Baghdad — is the first of its kind says a lot about how this problem is being addressed.

Dr. Haider Maliki and his team at the Central Pediatric Teaching Hospital in Baghdad have treated hundreds of children suffering from PTSD. Hundreds of thousands remain untreated.

Dr. Maliki, who is the only child psychiatrist in the entire country working at a government hospital, hasn’t even been trained as a child psychiatrist. He only took up the position when he saw the tremendous needs for that kind of professional in the country. It is well-known that children are particularly vulnerable to stress, violence and displacement.

Hardly a week still passes by in Iraq without renewed signs of violence that leave both children and adults with permanent mental scars. Dr. Haithi Al Sady, the dean of the Psychological Research Center at Baghdad University, has been studying the effects of PTSD in Iraqi children.

According to him, 28% of Iraqi children suffer some degree of PTSD, and their numbers are steadily rising. It is easy to see children’s psychological status being affected by daily explosions, killings, abductions, threatening noises and turmoil in Iraq’s main cities.

PSTD manifests itself in the following ways:

PTSD can cause many symptoms. These symptoms can be grouped into three categories:

1. Re-experiencing symptoms:

-Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating

-Bad dreams

-Frightening thoughts.

Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine. They can start from the person’s own thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing.

2. Avoidance symptoms:

-Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience

-Feeling emotionally numb

-Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry

-Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past

-Having trouble remembering the dangerous event.

Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her personal routine. For example, after a bad car accident, a person who usually drives may avoid driving or riding in a car.

3. Hyperarousal symptoms:

-Being easily startled

-Feeling tense or on edge

-Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts.

Hyperarousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic event. They can make the person feel stressed and angry. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.

It’s natural to have some of these symptoms after a dangerous event. Sometimes people have very serious symptoms that go away after a few weeks. This is called acute stress disorder, or ASD. When the symptoms last more than a few weeks and become an ongoing problem, they might be PTSD. Some people with PTSD don’t show any symptoms for weeks or months.

Children and teens can exhibit PSTD symptoms in ways different than adults:

Children and teens can have extreme reactions to trauma, but their symptoms may not be the same as adults.

In very young children, these symptoms can include:

-Bedwetting, when they’d learned how to use the toilet before

-Forgetting how or being unable to talk

-Acting out the scary event during playtime

-Being unusually clingy with a parent or other adult.

Older children and teens usually show symptoms more like those seen in adults. They may also develop disruptive, disrespectful, or destructive behaviors. Older children and teens may feel guilty for not preventing injury or deaths. They may also have thoughts of revenge.

Beyond this, the experience of trauma resulting in PSTD may also permanently impair a young person's development:

Victor Carrion and other researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, US, studied 15 children from ages 7 to 13 suffering from PTSD, according to the science portal EurekAlert.

This type of developmental trauma often impairs the child's ability to reach social, emotional and academic milestones. The researchers measured the volume of the hippocampus - part of brain important in memory processing and emotions - at the beginning and end of the 12- to 18-month study period.

After correcting for gender and for physiological maturity, they found that children with PSTD and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol were likely to experience a decrease in the size of the hippocampus.

Although similar effects have been seen in animal studies, this is the first time the findings have been replicated in children. The researchers focused on kids in extreme situations to better understand how stress affects brain development.

We're not talking about the stress of doing your homework or fighting with your dad, Carrion said, We're talking about traumatic stress. These kids feel like they're stuck in the middle of a street with a truck barrelling down at them.

And, yet, it has been reported that the President said that the Iraqis should be grateful for the efforts of US troops to pacify the country. If true, it is among the most mendacious statements that he has ever made.

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