Fifteen years ago, Israel tightened movement restrictions to and from Gaza to the point of full closure and its Security Cabinet declared the Strip a “hostile territory.”
This week, we launched a new visual publication, In Their Words: Mental Health Professionals in Gaza on Treating the Effects of Closure, in which mental health care providers shed light on the impact of Israel’s policies on the mental health of Palestinian residents of Gaza, as well as their work.
Late last year, together with the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP), we convened a group of mental health professionals in Gaza for a discussion on the effects of Israel’s ongoing closure policy on mental health. The key takeaways from the discussions were that:
- Hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Anxiety caused by the ongoing closure and the state of seemingly endless war takes the form of physical pain and suffering and can lead to severe depression and suicidal ideation.
- These symptoms are also prevalent among children who comprise half of Gaza’s population; a generation who was born into and grew up in the shadow of the closure.
Mental health professionals and therapists in Gaza work tirelessly, in impossible circumstances, to provide care for others, but in the ongoing reality of occupation, oppression, and violence, what they can do to help can only go so far.
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Israel’s sweeping, arbitrary and illegal movement restrictions separate mental health providers in Gaza from colleagues outside the Strip, prevent access to trainings, and trap residents of the Strip in a seemingly perpetual cycle of despair.
As Hassan Zeyada, a psychologist at GCMHP, said: “The state of mental health in Gaza could improve drastically with a single political decision by Israel to remove the closure and allow freedom of movement. Removing the closure would have immense impact on mental health because then, at least, we would have hope.”
>> To view In Their Words: Mental Health Professionals in Gaza on Treating the Effects of Closure, click here.