A Syrian woman holds her wounded child at a hospital following an attack in Idlib in northwestern Syria on February 24, 2012 amid a deadly crackdown by the regime. More than 7,600 people have been killed in violence across Syria since anti-regime protests erupted in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Image Credit: AFP

Syrian children terrified by shelling and airstrikes are showing signs of severe emotional distress and could grow up to be a generation “lost to trauma,” Save the Children warned Monday.

Interviews with more than 450 children and adults showed a high level of psychological stress among children, with many suffering from frequent bedwetting or developing speech impediments.

At least three million children are estimated to be living in Syria’s war zones, facing ongoing bombing and shelling as the conflict heads into its seventh year.

Two-thirds of those interviewed by the aid organization have lost a loved one or had their house bombed or shelled, or suffered war-related injuries themselves.

“After six years of war, we are at a tipping point,” said the report entitled “Invisible Wounds” on the war’s impact on children’s mental health.

“The risk of a broken generation, lost to trauma and extreme stress, has never been greater,” it said.

A staggering 84 per cent listed bombing and shelling as the number one cause of stress in children’s daily lives.

About 48 per cent of adults reported that children had lost the ability to speak or developed speech impediments since the start of the war.

Some 81 per cent of children have become more aggressive while 71 per cent suffer from frequent bedwetting, according to the research.

Half of those interviewed said domestic abuse was on the rise and one in four children said they don’t have a place to go or someone to talk to when they are scared, sad or upset.

Sonia Khush, Save the Children’s Syria director, cited instances of attempted suicide and self-harm.

In the besieged town of Madaya, six children — the youngest a 12-year-old girl — have attempted suicide in recent months, said Khush.

The report quoted a teacher in Madaya who said children there were “psychologically crushed and tired.”

“They draw images of children being butchered in the war, or tanks, or the siege and the lack of food.”

“Children wish they were dead and that they would go to heaven to be warm and eat and play,” said Hala, another teacher in Madaya.