The white halls of the Saint Antonios Medical Center are lined with patients, young and old, waiting to see a doctor.
A group of women patiently wait in the back of the clinic for their appointments with social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists. The medical center, in Jdiedeh in the northern suburbs of Beirut, provides health care to both Lebanese nationals and Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
The first patient of the morning is 32-year-old Waheeda. Waheeda has been living in Lebanon since 2012 when she fled the war in her hometown of Aleppo, Syria. She has endured several traumatic experiences, including the loss of both of her parents in the war, the death of her two sisters and a recent divorce. She suffers, like many Syrian refugees, from post traumatic stress disorder.
She is learning to deal with her trauma at Saint Antonios Medical Center. Before coming to the center, Waheeda spent most of her time alone, isolated, tearfully recalling her life in Syria and mourning the family she lost. “I used to fear dying. I wasn’t able to sleep in the dark. I had to keep the lights on to sleep,” Waheeda recalls.
Waheeda’s treatment includes a nightly dose of Risperdal. The medicine, along with Topamax, are two essential elements of psychiatric treatment that are now available at the center, thanks to the generous donation of AmeriCares. Anera has delivered the vital medicines to more than 460 partner centers in Lebanon that are providing psychiatric treatment. Saint Antonios Medical Center has received enough to treat 45 patients free of charge.
Helping Refugees in Lebanon Regain Hope
Waheeda says the medication and treatment has helped her regain some of her vitality and emotional balance. “I have hope and want to live now,” she says. “My experience has been life changing.” Waheeda says she is able to overcome challenges she couldn’t handle before. “You might see these improvements as small steps but they are huge leaps in my life.”
Psychiatrist Dr. Nicole Haddad describes Waheeda’s condition as a common consequence of war. “We have many patients who suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress, and panic attacks because of the war,” she explains. The psychiatric unit at Saint Antonios was established over five years ago to serve the mental health needs of Iraqi refugees. It has since grown now to serve the growing community of Syrian refugees.
Anera’s in-kind pharmacist, Lina Atat, describes the benefits of the donation. “It allows facilities like Saint Antonius to offer expensive psychiatric medicine free to those in need, especially Syrian refugees suffering from depression and trauma. Anera is helping to relieve the burden of paying for prescription medication for those who need it most but cannot afford it.” The medical relief also helps the clinics. “Our partner centers now can reallocate part of their budgets to provide other necessary medicine and supplies,” Atat explains.
Waheeda admits she had to overcome the misconceptions and stereotypes related to psychological and psychiatric treatment in the refugee community, “I realize how important therapy is to me. It’s a medical treatment that helps people get better, just like taking medicine for a chronic illness.” She says with relief, “With the help of the doctors and the medication, I have a new will to live.”
When you donate to Anera, you’re making vital work like this possible for refugees and poor communities in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank. Give to change lives.