Maha Sulaiman Younis: A personal history of psychiatry in Iraq through war and conflict
2020, Volume 3, Issue 2, Pages 113-118
Across four decades of war and violence in Iraq between 1981 and 2003, I undertook my medical training in psychiatry. I chose this specialty in response to the suffering of the bereaved women in Iraq across these rough times. This article details a personal history of my journey specialising in psychiatry through this period in Iraq and the experience of being the first female psychiatrist who accomplished her training through the Iraqi Board of Psychiatry in a programme established in 1988. I reflect on how psychiatry was not the specialisation of choice for female doctors, which created a shortage in the field. This most acutely impacted female trauma victims, who preferred to be treated by female psychiatrists. From the 1950s to 1988, the ratio of psychiatrists in the country increased from 0.2 to 0.5 per 100,000 population. However, this saw a dramatic decrease because of two waves of migration in 1991 and 2003, as of 1998, the ratio of psychiatrists in the country had dropped to 0.1 per 100,000 of the population. The pursuit and development of this specialisation were disrupted by war, invasion and comprehensive sanctions. I also consider the socio-economic impact of these aforementioned events on society as a whole and, in particular, on the medical profession. This account tells the story of my lived experience during those difficult times and my efforts to become an example of a new generation of women psychiatrists.
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