Since 1948, conflict has been part of everyday life for Palestinians, with conditions worsening daily as the situation has escalated over decades. Most recently, with the announcement of the US Israeli embassy moving to Jerusalem, violence and unrest has escalated.
The ongoing violence and its threat have a devastating effect on mental health-particularly among youth and in addition to besiegement, restriction of movement, poverty, humiliation and injustice its effects are devastating. Figures on this subject paint a troubling picture:
- Following the 2008-2009 assault on Gaza, over 30% of adolescents reported symptoms meeting the criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Following the 2014 offensive, 54% in areas affected by the conflict were found to be suffering from severe PTSD-suggesting a further deterioration in mental health directly related to the conflict
Children in the West Bank suffer a different set of circumstances with frequent child arrests by Israeli military forces leading to high rates of anxiety, depression and attentional and educational difficulties.
- A study by Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCIP) found that 75% of children detained between 2012 and 2015 endured some form of violence during their arrest by Israeli soldiers including humiliation and intimidation
- 70% of children detained underwent strip searches
- Studies also reveal that many children report being sexually assaulted while detained, as well as being threatened with rape
The combination of above factors has led to an increase in self-harm and suicide among Palestinians with figures increasing each year. Clinical depression among the Palestinian population is estimated to be among the highest in the MENA region, with some estimates reaching 40%.
A further 54% of Palestinian boys and 46.5% of Palestinian girls aged 6-12 years old are also estimated to have emotional and behavioural disorders.
Lack of access to healthcare due to restriction of movement, as well as poverty means that the issue can only get worse.
Support with mental health is crucial to both improve and save the lives of Palestinian youths. As an NGO which provides specialist support to Palestinians in need, Interpal recognises this urgent need and in keeping with this provides psychosocial and family support to children and their families who suffer trauma. This is conducted through its long-term partner in the field Palestine Trauma Centre, which provides vital relief to those in need through trained mental health professionals on the ground.
This work can only go so far, for as long as the conditions which facilitate and perpetuate mental illness exist in Palestine the issue will worsen. Therefore, it is vital that we vocally support the rights of Palestinians, help protect them from violence and facilitate access to healthcare which will ease their suffering.