Mental Health Policy in Iraq since 2003

(updated 2012)

This report provides a case study of the post-conflict rehabilitation of services and development of mental health policy following the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It illustrates common challenges faced in meeting mental health needs in post-conflict situations. In 2003 the health sector was already weakened and it was further devastated by the 2003 invasion; maintaining mental health as a health sector priority in the post-invasion years was a major challenge. In addition to conflict and security issues, rehabilitation had to take place against a fragmentation of power, frequent changes of leadership, a lack of an overall health policy, and insufficient funding. Considering this background there were considerable achievements, though these were insufficient to address the overall mental health burden. It is hoped that this case study of mental health policy and service rehabilitation in post-invasion Iraq will contribute to understanding the experiences faced in the Iraqi context, and contribute to the dialogue on best practice guidelines for other post-conflict situations.

This report originated with the work of Dr Jack Piachaud and Dr Sonali Sharma in 2007. During its development numerous people have shared their knowledge and expertise on mental health needs and services in Iraq. We are very grateful for all their input without which this report would not have been possible and hope we have presented things accurately – any mistakes or inaccuracies are the responsibility of the authors.

Tragically Jack died in 2009. This report is dedicated to him and his constant and inspiring work to improve things for those who suffer wherever and whoever they are.

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