Trauma-related psychological disorders among Palestinian children and adults in Gaza and West Bank, 2005-2008
AffiliationEpicentre, Paris, France; Hôpital Avicenne, Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Paris, Bobigny, France; Médecins Sans Frontières, Paris, France; Université Toulouse Le Mirail, Toulouse, France; Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, New York, USA; Hôpital Cochin, Maison des adolescents, Université Paris Descartes, AP-HP, France
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AbstractBACKGROUND: Trauma from war and violence has led to psychological disorders in individuals living in the Gaza strip and West Bank. Few reports are available on the psychiatric disorders seen in children and adolescents or the treatment of affected populations. This study was conducted in order to describe the occurrence and treatment of psychiatric disorders in the Palestinian populations of the Gaza strip and Nablus district in the West Bank. METHODS: From 2005 to 2008, 1369 patients aged more than 1 year were identified through a local mental health and counseling health network. All were clinically assessed using a semi-structured interview based on the DSM-IV-TR criteria. RESULTS: Among 1254 patients, 23.2% reported post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], 17.3% anxiety disorder (other than PTSD or acute stress disorder), and 15.3% depression. PTSD was more frequently identified in children < or = 15 years old, while depression was the main symptom observed in adults. Among children < or = 15 years old, factors significantly associated with PTSD included being witness to murder or physical abuse, receiving threats, and property destruction or loss (p < 0.03). Psychological care, primarily in the form of individual, short-term psychotherapy, was provided to 65.1% of patients, with about 30.6% required psychotropic medication. Duration of therapy sessions was higher for children < or = 15 years old compared with adults (p = 0.05). Following psychotherapy, 79.0% had improved symptoms, and this improvement was significantly higher in children < or = 15 years old (82.8%) compared with adults (75.3%; p = 0.001). CONCLUSION: These observations suggest that short-term psychotherapy could be an effective treatment for specific psychiatric disorders occurring in vulnerable populations, including children, living in violent conflict zones, such as in Gaza strip and the West Bank.