Pakistan psychologists issue conflict health warning

Thu May 13, 2010 3:37am EDT
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By Michael Georgy

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Rifaat Ramzan lay in a hospital bed with a blank stare, still traumatized weeks after losing his best friend, Noman, to a suicide bomber.

"He had just told me how it is good to dream and we will achieve our dreams," said Ramzan, who began sleeping with a gun under his pillow, fearful he too will be killed in Pakistan's relentless violence.

"This man came and asked Noman if he could get a lift on his motorcycle to the police station. When they got there the man blew himself up. Noman and nine other people were killed."

In the conflict between Taliban insurgents and Pakistan's army, thousands have been killed in bombings of everything from military and police facilities to crowded street markets; even a volleyball match was attacked. Countless others have been wounded.

But the psychological toll often goes unnoticed, even though underfunded and understaffed hospitals are treating a sharply rising number of people who can't cope with bloodshed.

"This is alarming us," said psychologist Najam Younes.

Some people are too depressed to function. Others are gripped by anxiety attacks, paranoia and post traumatic stress disorder. Flashbacks are common.

It doesn't take much to destabilize minds.   Continued...