Psychological Horrors of Six-Year War on Syrian Children

Save the Children and its Syrian partners interviewed more than 450 children, adolescents and adults across seven regions in Syria for “Invisible Wounds,” the largest and most comprehensive study undertaken inside Syria to examine children’s mental health and wellbeing.

The report documents a growing mental health crisis among children trapped inside Syria, as the war approaches its six-year mark this month. The conflict has killed more than 300,000 people and displaced at least half of the entire Syrian population, while more than 600,000 people remain trapped under siege.

Ongoing shelling, airstrikes and violence mean these children are living in a constant state of fear, which can create a condition known as “toxic stress.” If left untreated, toxic stress can have a life-long impact on children’s mental and physical health.

“The children we spoke with in Syria are terrified to play outside, afraid to go to school, and soiling themselves when they hear a loud noise,” said Save the Children President and CEO Carolyn Miles. “This is the result of six years of war, and is a tragedy that can’t be allowed to continue. We can end the toxic stress many children are suffering by stopping the bombardment of civilian areas and reaching everyone with lifesaving aid and psychological support.”

The constant psychological strain on children has manifested itself in bed wetting, involuntarily urination in public, speech impediments and children losing the ability to speak altogether, and substance abuse. Communities and professionals also report a rise in self-harm and suicide attempts among children as young as 12.