From October 19-21 the Iraqi Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. hosted six teams of behavioral health specialists from Iraq who spoke about their efforts to strengthen Iraq’s behavioral healthcare system. Their work is a part of a six year partnership between the Iraqi government and the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to rebuild and expand Iraq’s mental health services capacity and improve services to special populations in the U.S.
Since 2004 the Iraq-SAMHSA Partnership on Behavioral Health has helped Iraq re-establish its behavioral health service system through sponsoring planning conferences and enabling Iraqi behavioral health leaders to visit U.S. host sites featuring interventions the Iraqis want to implement in their country.
Both the Iraqi and American presenters at the symposium agreed that in general this partnership -- and a similar one with the British government -- have helped the Iraqi Ministry of Health become increasingly able to provide a wider array of innovative mental health services well suited to its communities. In particular Iraqi mental health providers are developing greater insight and skills in providing help to those with post traumatic stress disorders and other serious psychological conditions.
The symposium also revealed that this partnership has greatly benefited U.S. participants as well, providing them a much better understanding of how to effectively address the needs of refugees and immigrants from Iraq and other culturally similar countries. The knowledge and skills gained also hold tremendous promise in terms of treating trauma-affected U.S. troops returning from Iraq and other areas of conflict -- promoting SAMHSA’s Trauma and Justice, and Military Families strategic initiatives.
"This extraordinarily successful cooperative venture has yielded important new perspectives of how trauma and its many behavioral health consequences can be successfully treated," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. "This insight promises to help free millions of people suffering from the devastation of exposure to violence and other forms of trauma from lives of despair to lives of hope and fulfillment."
SAMHSA is a public health agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.