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Doctors of the World: No Peace of Mind for the Palestinian People

On the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Doctors of the World Chapters in Palestine working in the occupied Palestinian territory want to highlight the negative impact of occupation and its practices on the mental health of the Palestinian population, as Doctors of the World Chapters in Palestine and AIDA latest report, No Peace of Mind confirms.

Doctors of the World Chapters in Palestine, Jerusalem, 29 November 2022The occupation of the Palestinian territory, keeps the Palestinian people exposed to a crisis for more than seven decades, marked by violence from Israeli settlers, demolitions, displacement, arrests in the West Bank, and blockade in Gaza. The situation has deteriorated notoriously during this year, with the escalation in Gaza in August and the rise of tension in the West Bank, where 103 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year and until last 10 of October, the highest number since 2006. To live in such context has taken a heavy toll on the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of the Palestinians.

Recent estimations by Gaza Community Mental Health Center consider that around a third of Palestinians need mental health interventions, but mental health services are among the most under-resourced areas of health provision. Faced with the political and social conditions in the territory and the lack of health policies and resources for comprehensive mental health, the Palestinian population is facing a mental health emergency.

What are the common symptoms that the Palestinian population face?

The Palestinian population suffers from a variety of symptoms because of the Israeli occupation and lack of opportunities. Physically, headaches and stomach aches are the most common symptoms. On the other hand, fear, anxiety, sadness, despair, and lack of security are the most common emotional symptoms. The situation they face also has repercussions at a cognitive level, such as a decrease or inability to concentrate due to the trauma suffered, regardless of its intensity or frequency; and on their behavior, with the result that they tend to isolate themselves, stresses the AIDA and Doctors of the World Chapters in Palestine’s report No Peace of Mind.

“This is what gets you tired when you are an old man, and young settlers pushing you and not allowing you to crossroads, neither you are allowed to cross mountains, then you are in a siege”, explains Abu Ismael, leader of Duk Alfuka bedouin community.

A health system without mental health services

Doctors of the World Chapters in Palestine, which has been working with the Palestinian population since 1995, points out the importance of the Palestinian Ministry of Health investing in the provision of Mental Health services, by training health workers about mental health, including skills and tools for the detection, diagnosis, and management of mental disorders in primary health care.

There is a need to accelerate the integration of mental health into all levels of health care and to invest in developing the resources, both physical and human, needed for mental health assessment and treatment,” explains Simone Manfredi, Doctors of the World Chapters in Palestine Spain general coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory.

In addition, as elsewhere in the world, it is important to de-stigmatize mental health problems and strengthens access to Mental health and psychosocial support services, both within the community and with health care providers.

As the WHO noted in its latest report, mental health must be given the same value and priority as physical health. Commitment to mental health needs to be intensified in all sectors, understanding its value as a basic human right and a critical contributor to public health and the economic development of society. Greater social and financial protection, more research, and inclusion of people with mental health problems in all aspects of society are vital to overcoming stigma.

What Doctors of the World Chapters in Palestine does in Palestine

Doctors of the World Chapters in Palestine aims at alleviating the mental health and psychosocial support of Palestinians through direct interventions following occupation-related incidents as well as supporting the service providers to improve the quality these services.

Response to occupation-related incidents. Doctors of the World Chapters in Palestine have been providing emergency mental health and psychosocial intervention following critical incidents. For example, between June 2021 and October 2022, 8.300 Palestinians received mental health and psychosocial support across the West Bank.

To reinforce the provision of mental health and psychosocial support services by the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education, Doctors of the World Chapters in Palestine support the capacity building of health staff and support the development and implementation of protocols, rehabilitated some facilities and has procured drugs to ensure the continuity of the treatments. In the same way, teachers, social workers, central counseling units have received trainings and supervision to improve the attention to children and adolescents.

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