Photo: Mais Salman/DRC
Photo: Mais Salman/DRC

Syrian refugees need help with mental traumas

More than half of the Syrian refugees living in Lebanon need support to tackle their psychological problems and mental traumas. However, only one in four receives the assistance needed, according to a new report from Dignity and Danish Refugee Council. Therefore, humanitarian organisations must prioritise psycho-social support and integrate it into existing programs, the report says.


Around one million Syrians have fled to the neighbouring Lebanon. Most of the refugees suffer from psychological problems because of their experience during the war and their current uncertain situation. Few, however, receive adequate professional assistance. Many don’t know who they can turn to for help, and only five percent of male refugees have received psychological assistance. Among women the figure is 12 percent.

The report is based on a survey among more than 1000 Syrian refugees living in Lebanon as well as in-depth interviews with around 350 people. As many as 62 percent of the refugees express a need for help with their mental or psychological problems. One in three has experienced one or multiple traumatic events. 25 percent have lost a close family member.

“The report documents the brutality of war and the traumas that the refugees are living with, as well as the stressful situations many refugees experience even after they have found a safer place to stay. The report is an important wake-up call, which we need to take seriously,” says Christian Friis Bach, Secretary General of the Danish Refugee Council.

Rickard Hartmann, DRC’s Country Director in Lebanon, agrees.

“The report highlights the importance of considering psycho-social needs in all our interventions with Syrian refugees. DRC's protection programme focuses on children and adolescents, recognising that their mental health and psychological well-being are essential if they are to grow up as strong and self-reliant individuals. This experience has taught us that psycho-social support should be adaptable to the different needs of children and adults. We've also learned that psychological assistance in isolation alone does not have a lasting impact, as families still struggle to secure basic physical and material needs. Therefore, psychological support should be an integrated part of our services to Syrian refugees in Lebanon,” Rickard Hartmann says.

The refugees state a number of reasons why they have not received the assistance they need. Many are not aware of what is offered. For others, transport is a challenge.

The report shows that there is a clear link between the daily economic struggle of the refugees and their mental health. Therefore, the report recommends that humanitarian organisations prioritise livelihood programmes, enabling refugees to fend for themselves and their families.

Read the entire report here