When the Myanmar Army attacked and massacred ethnic Rohingya civilians in 2017, more than 700,000 men, women, and children fled to Bangladesh, some riddled with bullets, burns, and gaping wounds. Hundreds of villages were in ashes, razed by soldiers and their civilian proxies. Biden
But long after the physical wounds scarred over, Rohingya continue to suffer mental harm on a massive scale. President-elect Biden can and should do something about it.
There are upwards of one million Rohingya refugees now languishing in Bangladesh. They are experiencing trauma, depression, and anxiety at staggering rates. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 15 to 20 percent of adults will experience some type of moderate or mild mental health disorder one year after an emergency, and in theory, those figures should decrease over time.
By contrast, a new report published by Fortify Rights finds that 89 percent of Rohingya refugees in sprawling camps in Bangladesh are experiencing serious depression. Eighty-four percent are experiencing severe emotional distress. And a staggering 62 percent are experiencing symptoms equivalent to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder—a debilitating condition that can prevent its victims from leading normal and constructive lives.
What drives these extreme levels of distress?
Ongoing genocide in Myanmar is partly to blame, but the new quantitative data reveals that long-term systematic human rights violations in Myanmar and ongoing impunity are also key factors that continue to impact Rohingya mental health. Biden
This may seem obvious, but it’s not. The study of trauma typically focuses on the effects of singular traumatic events: witnessing an accident, the death of a loved one, or surviving a violent attack, for example. But none of the existing mental health studies focusing on refugees have accounted for the role of long-term, systematic human rights violations on mental health outcomes.