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Although an online survey cannot be used for diagnostic purposes, questions were included to tap symptoms commonly associated with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Survey respondents were asked, “Please consider, are you currently experiencing, or have you in the past month experienced, any of the following? (check all that apply)”.
Table 5:
Distress Reported by Survey Respondents
Symptom Description
57% Feelings of sadness, unhappiness, or ‘emptiness’
54% Irritability or frustration, even over small matters
50% Fatigue, tiredness and loss of energy — even small tasks may seem to require a lot of effort
47% Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
38% Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
28% Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
27% Changes in appetite, less hungry or more hungry than usual
23% Frequent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive stomach problems that do not ease even with treatment or do not seem to have a clear explanation
22% Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or
blaming yourself when things aren't going right
20% Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
19% Restlessness — e.g. pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
19% Numbing, or feeling emotionally disconnected from others
16% Avoiding thoughts, feelings, conversations, activities, places,
people associated with stressful events
15% Feeling “jumpy” when hearing noises e.g. phones, doors, cars, thunder
12% Feeling disconnected from your life, like nothing is real, as if you were in a movie
13% Images, thoughts, dreams, illusions, flashback episodes, or a sense of reliving stressful experiences
10% A reduction in awareness of surroundings e.g. "being in a daze"
8% Crying spells for no apparent reason
6% Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
Note: Eighty-nine per cent of survey respondents endorsed at least one item above.
Again, although not diagnostic, survey respondents endorsed symptoms typically associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression at high rates, with almost 60 per cent indicating “feelings of sadness, unhappiness, or ‘emptiness’”. In addition, even 6 per cent of survey respondents indicating “frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide” is disconcerting and begs the question, is UNHCR doing enough to address suicidal ideation? Aside from suicidal thoughts, some might suggest these symptoms should only be of concern if clearly interfering with work performance. Some of the online survey items were designed to address this issue.
Staff were asked, “Are any of the items checked interfering with your ability to: Do your job?”, and 42 per cent indicated ‘yes’. Staff responded at an even higher rate to a modification of the question asking whether the checked items are interfering with his or her ability to “Maintain relationships with your family, friends, or colleagues?” Forty nine per cent of the survey respondents indicated ‘yes’ to this question.

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