120,000 Libyans may suffer from severe PTSD

U. QUEENSLAND (AUS) — While the physical casualties of the violence of the 2011 conflict in Libya have been well documented, the mental health of the Libyan people deserves more consideration, say researchers.

In the first-ever study of the effect of Libya’s conflict on the mental health of its populations, researchers have estimated the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression and say the country is facing a mental health crisis and a lack of qualified health professionals to deal with the problem.

Led by Fiona Charlson of the University of Queensland’s School of Population Health, researchers used existing data on post-conflict settings to estimate the prevalence of mental disorders in parts of Libya particularly affected by last year’s conflict, including Misrata, Benghazi, Tripoli, and Zintan.


As reported in the journal PLos One, about 40 percent of the most conflict-affected populations could be suffering from PTSD, with 30 percent of these cases considered to be severe.

More than a third could have depression, with around half of these experiencing the most severe form of the illness. Researchers found a high degree of co-morbidity between the two disorders with half of those experiencing PTSD estimated to be also suffering from depression.

These current levels of substantial mental health burden are unlikely to be adequately addressed by Libyan’s health system, already under strain since the conflict, Charlson says.

“Our estimates show that more than 120,000 Libyans are predicted to have the most severe form of PTSD while more than 220,000 are predicted to have severe depression. This is a huge burden on the Libyan health service and, not surprisingly, the country’s capacity to meet its mental health needs fall exceedingly short of what is likely to be required.”

Using guidelines set by the World Health Organization, researchers say at least 150 qualified staff would be needed to respond to the crisis, about 60 more than the most recently estimated levels.

They predict the prevalence of severe PTSD and depression will drop to 5 percent and 9 percent respectively within three years, provided hostilities do not resume.

Source: University of Queensland

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