PTSD and North Korean Refugees

For North Koreans in China, finding help from anyone can be difficult. This is especially true for finding medical care. But for those who struggle with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD), finding help can be impossible. China struggles to deliver quality medical care to its citizens. The World Health Organization has ranked China’s medical care system 144 out of a possible 190 countries.

We found this to be true when we recently brought a doctor from the US to assess the medical needs of the refugees in our network. Refugees who had access to some medical care were often misdiagnosed or over prescribed medicines that didn’t treat the cause of their symptoms.

We also found that the refugees in our network were relatively healthy. They do not suffer from issues that many people in the developed world suffer from, such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes. Many of the symptoms that the refugees suffer from can in fact be related to PTSD.

Along with the internal symptoms of this condition (irritability, trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, angry outbursts, etc.), many of our refugees display psychosomatic symptoms of PTSD. These are symptoms from a mental disorder that manifest themselves physically.

The symptoms that our doctor saw last year were all in line with textbook PTSD. Even in our new area where the refugees feel safe from immediate harm, they still display strong symptoms of PTSD.

It is important for us to handle this condition in a way that is consistent with our faith and is culturally sensitive.

The good news is that treatment for PTSD was already occurring. We have and are forming new faith communities. These communities are a place for our refugees to gather together for worship and fellowship.

This is happening in our communities now. This year we started three churches in the new area we are working in. Already, these churches are thriving and they are helping our people deal with the trauma they experienced in North Korea and China.

We will continue to improve our services but the bulk of their needs are being met. Please pray for us as we continue to support these churches and further expand our reach.