A new study has found a high incidence of suicide among women in camps housing long-term refugees fleeing Myanmar’s ethnic conflict, reports the BBC News Magazine.
In a study of refugees in Thailand’s Mae La camp, where 90% are ethnically Karen – a group that mainly identifies as Christian – Dr. Gracia Fellmeth found that, last year, suicide was “too common” in the camp, accounting for half of all deaths among pregnant women and new mothers.
With 40,000 residents, Mae La is the biggest of the camps on the Thai-Myanmar border, which combined are home to more than 100,000 people.
Dr. Fellmeth, who reported her findings in the British Medical Journal, visited the camp as part of a study into the mental health of mothers around the time they give birth. It focused on a couple who had committed suicide together by swallowing weed killer, despite the pregnant woman showing no alarming signs at an antenatal clinic days before. It also found that a quarter of all the women they spoke to thought about suicide, with about 3% having made an attempt.
The report concluded that “refugee populations are at risk of developing mental disorders as a result of their marginalised status, socioeconomic disadvantage and exposure to trauma”.
Persecution of Christians is considered to be “very high” in Myanmar, which sits at number 28 on the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List of countries where Christians are most under pressure for their faith, published on 11 January.