In late 2021, Gisha and the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) convened a focus group of mental health professionals working in the Strip to discuss the impact of Israel’s closure on mental health, the challenges therapists and care specialists face as residents living under closure in Gaza themselves, and possible interventions in this difficult reality. 

In July 2022, Gisha and GCMHP hosted a webinar to discuss the findings of the focus group and the situation on the ground. Gisha’s executive director, Tania Hary and field coordinator, Mohammad Azaiza were joined by Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei, general director of GCMHP, and Rawia Hamam, GCMHP’S director of training and research.  

The speakers discussed trends in mental health over the past 15 years in Gaza, the additional impact of COVID-19, as well as how socio-economic hardship undermines mental and physical wellbeing in Gaza and the unique struggle of women and children.  

“We all know how COVID-19 impacted the population when we had the lockdown and the psychological impact of that lockdown increased depression, suicidal ideation, and so on,” said Dr. Abu Jamei. “I can say that during 15 years of blockade, we had something that is not really [all that] different from what happened during COVID-19.” 

Dr. Abu Jamei spoke about the difficulty of providing care and assistance in an ongoing reality of closure, with no end in sight. “It’s not easy, you always see the same challenges, the same faces of the clients, you live in the same reality, you are exposed to the same traumatic condition, you see the same socio-economic devastation of the community and then you have every day to try and identify hope and to light a candle of hope in people’s lives. It’s not easy but we try to help each other to overcome the psychological fatigue.” 

To hear more about Gaza’s mental health crisis from the perspective of care givers in Gaza, watch a recording of the webinar here.