Alwan explained that the pressure of seven years of war had pushed professors and students alike to a stage of psychological fragility.
“We all suffer from some degree of mental disorder because of the deteriorating living conditions, interruption of salaries, and losing relatives in this war,” she said.
The country’s poor conditions have led dozens of faculty members to withdraw from society, and their behaviour has become “emotionally extreme and intense,” she added.
“You cannot imagine how difficult it is for you, as an academic, to live in your homeland, afraid of being targeted, unable to cover the expenses of daily life, and under constant pressure from everyone around you.”
‘Immense Stressors’ on the Population
Al-Mekhlafi was not the only one finding it hard to get support.
A report published in 2017 by the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, titled “The Impact of War on Mental Health in Yemen: A Neglected Crisis”, stated that suicide rates in Sana’a, the capital, had increased by 40.5 percent from 2014, when the war broke out, to 2015.
The report noted that the war was causing Yemen’s people to endure “immense stressors”, like frequent exposure to violence, food shortages, disease and rampant poverty. These stressors “significantly heighten the threat of widespread deterioration of mental health”, it said.
Data on the general status of mental health in Yemen are lacking, the report said, but “the available information suggests that many in the population are likely suffering adverse psychosocial and emotional well-being consequences.”
University Mental-Health Programmes
Yemen’s universities lack resources to help those affected. Things became worse when the counselling centres’ work was suspended and their headquarters were turned into lecture halls.
The director of one mental-health programme at Sana’a University, who requested anonymity, said that more than half of Yemeni psychiatrists had left the country since the outbreak of the war.
He told Al-Fanar Media that the war had “halted mental-health programmes in all universities, given the lack of funding, and disrupted the implementation of the Yemeni Ministry of Health’s strategy for developing mental-health programmes.”