Rohingya genocide survivors in severe mental health crisis

The report provides new evidence of the severe mental health toll that genocide, human rights violations, and violence has on survivors

Rohingyas in Bangladesh who survived genocide in Myanmar are experiencing a “severe” mental health crisis, according to data in a new report published on Thursday by Fortify Rights.

The report includes quantitative data on Rohingya experiences with human rights violations in Myanmar, traumatic events in Myanmar, symptoms of mental harm—including post-traumatic stress, depression, and anxiety—functioning difficulties, as well as Rohingya opinions on returning to Myanmar.

“The Rohingya mental health crisis is life threatening and has been largely overlooked,” said Matthew Smith, chief executive officer of Fortify Rights.

United Nations agencies estimate that 12 months after an emergency, approximately 15% to 20% of adults will experience some type of moderate or mild mental health disorder.

“The scale of the problem is massive but not insurmountable. Governments should prioritize the mental health of the Rohingya community and ensure survivors of the genocide in Myanmar can rebuild their lives with dignity.”

However, data published reveals that 88.7% of Rohingya refugees experienced symptoms of depression, 84% experienced symptoms of emotional distress, and 61.2% experienced symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The data further shows how these symptoms adversely impact the daily lives and functioning of Rohingya genocide survivors.

The 99-page report: “The Torture in My Mind”: The Right to Mental Health for Rohingya Survivors of Genocide in Myanmar, is based on participatory action research conducted between March 2018 to November 2020 by a team of ten ethnic-Rohingya researchers trained and supported by Fortify Rights.

The report provides new evidence of the severe mental health toll that genocide, human rights violations, and violence has on survivors.

The quantitative methods used in the report ensure the results are representative of the entire Rohingya refugee population in Bangladesh. The most highly reported symptoms experienced by Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh related to reliving traumatic events.

The ten-member Rohingya research team of this project conducted 495 household surveys, 13 pre-research focus-group discussions, 33 participant feedback sessions, and 16 community workshops with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

“Rohingya are not merely victims,” said Matthew Smith.

“The idea that persecuted groups can’t objectively represent themselves is false and pernicious. The Rohingya team did excellent work documenting information that will affect humanitarian priorities and efforts to ensure justice.”

The Rohingya are a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority indigenous to Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

There are an estimated 2.5 million Rohingya worldwide, including approximately 600,000 in Rakhine State and approximately one million living as refugees in Bangladesh.

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More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh following attacks led by the Myanmar armed forces in 2016 and 2017