The Iraqi government on Wednesday (January 23rd) announced that all victims of terrorist strikes in Iraq are eligible to receive psychiatric care and treatment at the expense of the state.
"The government will provide treatment to people suffering from psychiatric conditions and shock due to terrorist attacks, whether the treatment is administered inside or outside the country, and regardless of the length of the treatment," said government media advisor Ali al-Musawi.
Officials took this step to address the increase in the number of people suffering from such conditions, particularly children, teenagers, and women, he told Mawtani, noting that150 billion Iraqi dinars ($129 million) have been allocated to help these citizens get treatment.
"The wave of terror that affected tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis resulted in people suffering from psychological disorders, which will inevitably lead to problems within Iraqi society," said Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.
"Often we refer to massacres committed by al-Qaeda terrorists and others in terms of the numbers of bodies that fall in the streets, but in fact there are others who sustain psychological damages," he told Mawtani. "Those are divided into two types: the families of victims, who lose their loved ones in bombings, and the people who witness the scenes of terror."
Officials are also slated to open sections in all Iraqi hospitals geared towards psychological health, which will be equipped with all the necessary staff and equipment, he said.
It is crucial to treat "children suffering from psychological disorders because of terrorist attacks, especially those who witnessed charred, dead bodies in the streets, or who saw their own parents killed before their eyes", the deputy prime minister said.
"This group must receive treatment fast, before they develop violent behaviour, or start to harm themselves or those living with them," he said.
'SWIFT TREATMENT' NEEDED
According to Health Ministry Undersecretary Dr. Khamees al-Saad, a medical committee will meet every Tuesday and Thursday at ministry headquarters in Baghdad to examine victims and suggest appropriate treatment.
The committee will decide if a patient needs treatment outside the country, or whether he or she can be treated inside Iraq at the hands of local physicians and at the expense of the state, he told Mawtani.
"Most patients suffering from severe psychological disorders start complaining from symptoms immediately after the terrorist attacks, as seen in their screams of panic, shock and lack of concentration, in addition to severe tension that sometimes leads the patient to commit excessive violence," al-Saad said.
Affected children start performing poorly at school, have disturbed sleep, nightmares and insomnia, are over-alert and sometimes seek revenge or commit acts of violence against specific individuals, he said. "All of this requires swift psychological treatment," he said.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Education Minister Mohammed Tamim told Mawtani his ministry has prepared a similar plan to treat students suffering from psychological stress because of terrorist attacks.
This plan includes posting a psychiatrist to every school -- a measure taken in collaboration with the United Nations mission in Iraq, increasing extracurricular activities such as painting and sports and reinstating trips and camping in order to help these suffering children and encourage them to engage in life again with their peers, he said.
"Al-Qaeda committed the most horrific types of psychological intimidation on Iraqis through car bombings, explosive charges, black clothes and the masks they use in their terrorist attacks," said Nabil Abdullah al-Sheikh, psychology professor at Al-Mustansiriyah University in Baghdad.
"All of this left a serious psychological impact on their victims," he said. He called on citizens to take advantage of the treatment, which he deemed an "important and blessed step".