Palestinian health workers started a network to help Palestinians with emotional well-being, as they have among the highest rates for anxiety and depression due to the ongoing conflict with Israel.
Palestinian health workers recently launched the Palestine-Global Mental Health Network, in order to assist with their people’s emotional well-being and assert their professional stance.
Palestinian people have among the highest rates for anxiety and depression, in large part due to the continuous strife between Israel and Palestine. Unexpected raids in the middle of the night, checkpoints, teargas, and jailed young children all contribute to a profound sense of hopelessness and despair. For example, young men who seek out mental health services often explain that they think of looking for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to create a confrontation in the potential hope that they’ll be killed, according to Mondoweiss. Suicidal ideation, depression, trauma, and anxiety are undoubtedly high conditions in most people.
This network was partially launched because of a meeting held in Tel Aviv toward the end of June for the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. The location was impossible to get to for Palestinian professionals who wished to attend, due to restriction of movement. Last year, a petition was circulated by the USA-Palestine Mental Health Network, with support from the Jewish Voice for Peace and UK-Palestine Mental Health Network, asking that the location be changed, but the petition was not answered.
The launch for the Palestine-Global Mental Health Network was held at the Palestinian Red Crescent’s headquarters in al-Bireh. The Palestine Red Crescent Society is involved in health care in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It collaborated with the Palestinian Social and Psychological Syndicate and the Arab Psychological Association as well.
Over 150 Palestinian health professionals attended from various cities, including Gaza, Haifa, Ramleh, and Jerusalem, among others. UK and U.S.-based Palestinian professionals joined through video-conferencing. The network plans to assist Palestinian people, regardless of geographic location, and promote mental health, social justice, and human dignity among people in general, and Palestinians in particular. A major goal is to augment Palestinian resistance to violence. More generally, this network will cooperate with others in the U.S., the UK, and Belgium to strengthen their programs and establish similar organizations.
The speeches addressed specific topics, as well as general thoughts on why an organization like this is necessary. In the closing session, a task force was created that would organize a paper explaining the network’s opening strategies and general framework. A separate committee was commissioned to carry out projects and plans agreed upon at the conference.
Another branch for the same organization also recently begun in Belgium. Their overall goal is also to make known the effects of occupation on the mental health of the Palestinian people. Activities include conferences, panels, and trips for international co-workers to visit Palestine and meet with other professionals, among others, according to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. The networks in Belgium, the U.S., and the UK generally work independently, but occasionally collaborate on ideas, strategies, and campaigns.
Mental health workers have an important role to play in the continuing struggle between Israel and Palestine, and these collaborating networks show that they intend to assist as best they can.
NOEMI ARELLANO-SUMMER is a journalist and writer living in Boston, MA. She is a voracious reader and has a fondness for history and art. She is currently at work on her first novel and wants to eventually take a trip across Europe.