All eyes have been on the Middle East and the conflicts that continue to invade the area. But what isn’t visible to the eye and featured on our TV screens everyday is the more dangerous threat claiming the lives of people in this region: murder and suicide. According to new research published by the International Journal of Public Health (IJPH), murder and suicide took 1.4 million lives in 22 different countries in the East, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Syria. War proved responsible for a much smaller amount of 144,000 deaths over the same period of time. The same data showed a 100% increase in suicides and a 152% increase in murders over the course of just 25 years.

The data is unfathomable, but it’s also reality. What is causing this significant increase in the number of suicides and murders? How is it possible that murder and suicide are responsible for more deaths than war? Well, war isn’t completely innocent in these cases. Murder and suicide may be the ultimate causes of these deaths, but the scars of war prove to be the drive behind them.

“Intractable and endemic violence is creating a lost generation of children and young adults,” said Ali Mokdad, director at Middle Eastern Initiatives at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). These individuals are watching their friends, their family, the people they pass on the street, get shot down and blown up in an instant. They live in fear of becoming victims themselves. And even with this intense fear and paranoia, their eyes and hearts still fill with shock and despair with every violent act they witness. Mokdad went on to say that the fate of the Middle East is a “grim” one, unless stability finds a way to conquer the region.

Trauma and Mental Illness: Two Sides of the Same Coin

The people that inhabit this area are living in a quite literal nightmare. Except the explosion from a bomb and the pressure of a bullet doesn’t wake them up. It kills them. Or it attacks their minds. In addition to the increase in murders and suicides, the aforementioned study also reported a notable increase in mental health illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder in the Middle East. These disorders can be specifically dangerous to one’s wellbeing:


Depression can have some serious effects on an individual and the course of their life. Someone with this mental illness may…

  • experience a depressed state all day everyday.
  • lose interest in everything and everyone they love.
  • have trouble sleeping at night.
  • feel fatigued and tired everyday.
  • feel worthless or guilty everyday.
  • experience an inability to think or make decisions.
  • have recurrent thoughts of suicide and death in general.
  • attempt suicide.


Anxiety is also a very serious mental illness and can cause an individual some major damage. Someone suffering with anxiety may…

  • feel restless.
  • become easily fatigued.
  • have difficult concentrating or staying on task.
  • feel like they have no control over their life.
  • find it hard to control excessive anxiety and worry.
  • experience significant distress.
  • have recurrent thoughts of suicide and death.
  • attempt suicide.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can turn someone into a completely different version of themselves—one they don’t like nor recognize. Someone with bipolar disorder may…

  • be extremely irritable.
  • snap without a moment’s notice.
  • experience rapid shifts in mood.
  • act inappropriately silly or happy to the given context.
  • become delusional.
  • have recurrent thoughts of suicide and death.
  • attempt suicide.

The worst part about this increase in mental illnesses? There’s a severe shortage in mental health professionals in the Middle East, such as therapists and psychiatrists. To put the severity of the shortage in perspective, there are just 0.5 psychiatrists per 100,000 people in Yemen, according to IJPH—that’s not even 3 psychiatrists to help half a million people. The most effective and primary treatment for many mental illnesses is therapy, whether it be cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, group therapy, interpersonal therapy. It truly helps individuals face their mental disorder head-on, as well as the problems that come with it, and works to help free them from it. But what happens when therapy isn’t an option? What if it isn’t readily available, in instances such as those in the Middle East? The illness will worsen: the individual will experience a steady, but rapid decline in their mental health. And they’ll be at a greater risk of becoming another one of murder or suicide’s victims—the common denominator in the descriptions above. That’s exactly what’s happening in the Middle East, as one of war’s many ripple effects. The region is infested with violence, which the people are exposed to, whom then develop mental illnesses, which then lead directly to murder and suicide: two of the area’s biggest predators.