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"The first step is always the hardest"

"The first step is always the hardest"


Suhad’s story


Suhad dreams of becoming a psychologist.

“I want to help people feel better about their own lives,” she explains. “I can see now how important this can be.”

The lively 28-year-old lives in a camp for Syrian refugees in Iraq with her two children and loving husband, and regularly participates in psychosocial support activities in the camp.

Suhad’s own journey is one touched by distress, providing a clue as to what motivates her to help others.

After losing her mother as a child and being abused by her stepmother, she married the man she loved at the age of eighteen – but on her wedding night, she screamed when he tried to come close to her.

“I was so scared. I had no idea what a healthy relationship between a man and a woman should be like.

“I felt like nobody could give me the care and love that my mother used to provide,” Suhad recalls.

Things only got worse when the Syrian war forced her out of her home. Suhad ended up in Kurdistan, living in squalor in a refugee camp and struggling to support her family financially. One of her brothers is disabled and the other two could not find work.

Then the worst happened.

Suhad’s son died amid the poor living conditions in their tent. His mother’s mental health deteriorated even further. She developed troubles sleeping and started smoking a lot.

Once more she began to isolate herself from her husband.

That is when the 28-year-old realised she needed help.

Suhad learned about the psychosocial support work International Medical Corps was doing with funding from the European Union in the region – and she decided to take control of her own life.

Walking into the office of Jehan Hussein Omar, International Medical Corps’ mental health case manager in Domiz refugee camp in Iraq, she immediately asked: “Are you a psychologist?”

Jehan immediately referred her for treatment; Suhad was given medication and started regularly attending support sessions. Her husband, who has stood by her throughout these sad times, was with Suhad through her treatment – and her condition gradually began to improve.

“The first step is always the hardest,” says Jehan. “Suhad is healthy now and has more self-confidence than ever.”

Suhad’s relationship with her husband improved as well.

I have never found anyone who loves me as much as my husband, I understand this now and I feel happy and much less anxious.

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