“Psychiatry and Efforts to Build Community in Iraq”


In a commentary in the American Journal of Psychiatry, George Washington University psychiatrist Amir Afkhami writes that the US State Department-funded Iraq Mental Health Initiative “sets an important precedent for the efficacy of psychiatrist-led psychosocial interventions in sectarian conflicts.”

Afkhami describes the program that ran from 2008-10 and “trained thousands of Iraqi general practitioners, health care workers, and teachers to identify priority psychiatric conditions and to apply evidence-based treatments,” and suggests that it played an important role in reducing conflict and re-building community in the country.

Afkhami argues that such psychiatric programs should be funded by the government in other conflict areas in which the US military is involved. “Our past experience in Iraq has taught us that success on the battlefield does not ensure a lasting peace,” writes Afkhami. “Consequently, if left unchecked, the communal divides will likely persist long after the victory of one side over the other and will be a source of instability that can threaten our national security… The role of psychiatrists in rebuilding fractured communities is significant.”

Psychiatry and Efforts to Build Community in Iraq (Afkhami, Amir A.
American Journal of Psychiatry. September 1, 2014. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.14070815)


  1. All depends on what is meant by “psychiatry” and its “evidence-based treatments” here. Psychiatry is currently made up of two basically distinct, often opposing paradigms – the biomedical and the psychosocial – so I have to look for context clues to try to figure out which is being talked about. Psychiatry as a field needs to address this split personality and decide what it is and what it believes.

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