Mental healthcare proposal for Syrian refugees in Lebanon

This is to summarize a research of Nada Alnaji, M.D., M.P.H., on Mental Health Challenges in Syrian Refugees Living in Lebanon in the 38th Annual Global Studies Conference hosted by University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2015. This article also proposes another viewpoint and a specific solution regarding to Alnaji’s work.

“The worst humanitarian tragedy of our times” – UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres

said about the Syrian crisis since this crisis has resulted in more than 3 million refugees – 1/3 of them are living in Lebanon. This huge number released a tremendous pressure on the local society and, as a result, has been redirected to the refugees. The overwhelmed medical facilities, infrastructure and unwelcome attitude from Lebanese due to intense job competition can be listed with other various reasons. It is clearly seen that stress prevails among the society, proved by 58% of refugees reported facing with fear, hopelessness and 62% dealing with emotional distress. Ms. Alnaji try to solve this problem as it is not properly concerned and

…disregarding the mental health aspect in this crisis only further paralyze an already volatile situation.

After doing research and fieldwork right at the refugees’ settlement, she came up with the 3-step solution. In a simple explanation, the first step initializing with mental first-aid training for school teachers and primary healthcare staffs. The second step strengthens this system by well-trained psychiatrists and operators. The last but not least, the third step ensures all can receive the mental healthcare benefits when all school teachers and social workers have been fully equipped and be prepared for any mental health problems.

An on-going solution from a quest of evaluation

During Alnaji’s presentation in the conference, there was a question addressed by Mr. Thein, M.D. that whether or not there exists a tool or method help us evaluate one’s mental health condition in a scientific and reliable way. We all know that there is not enough psychiatrist in that area to conduct a diagnosis on each refugee and/or things get worse to wait for his/her turn. In fact, we are doing a research in which we can train computer to recognize whether a human is in his/her stressful condition or not based on heart rate variability. This computer can be integrated into a wearable device such as watch or wristband and keeps track of its user in real time with a very-low cost.

Realtime stress detection
Realtime stress detection

Needs – first comes, first serves

Maslow's hierarchy of needs
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (

After having considered all the possible solutions, one thing that should be noted is what is needed most, must be done first. According to the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, in my opinion, the refugees must be provided at least the most basic needs of a human being: food, water, shelter and safety first. Consequently, providing them those will ease the stressful environment and, hence, in some way, indirectly solve a portion of our big problem.


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