Exposure to violence is putting the people of Iraq at risk of serious psychological damage, says a doctor in this week's BMJ.
Previous studies have suggested that the risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder following a traumatic event ranges from 7.5% to 72%, with the risk being highest in those exposed to sustained combat trauma.
With an excess of over 500,000 violent deaths, there will no doubt have been many more people exposed to grave violence. It therefore seems likely that the nation of Iraq may suffer a double blow, firstly by losing a sizeable proportion of its working population and secondly by the significant consequences of people suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, writes Dr Michael Reschen of the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford.
This may also be compounded by cultural barriers which prevent people from seeking psychological help, he adds.
The mainstay of the coalition's medical effort has been understandably directed at assisting with basic medical help and treating injured civilians in Iraqi or coalition hospitals. The medical literature provides ample examples of rebuilding psychiatric facilities in a post-war era, most notably the experiences of doctors in Croatia following the invasion by coalition forces.
"We must learn the lessons of history and expedite the psychiatric help for Iraqi civilians," he concludes.
Psychological implications of Iraqi invasion BMJ Volume 333, p 971