Mental Health: what state of “well-being” are people in Gaza facing and how are they “coping” if they are not dying?

21-11-2023 11:51 AM
Mohannad Al Nsour

It is known that mental health is the state of “well-being” that empowers individuals to steer into their lives and face the different conditions of living.

Aside from death, severe injuries, or being completely missed under the rubble, there are other alarming concerns regarding the thousands of victims in Gaza who are in urgent need of specialized mental health services and essential medications.

Let us start with the fact that the 15-year plus of blockade has resulted in four out of five children in Gaza with depression, grief and fear in their daily lives. Then move to consider how the persistent violence in Gaza, marked by the high casualties and injuries, is anticipated to exacerbate and have lasting repercussions on the mental “well-being” of the population.

Access challenges and the traumatizing conditions resulting from the ongoing violence exacerbate the already strained mental health situation. The escalation has created an environment where individuals struggle to cope with the psychological effects of the ongoing violence, leading to increased demand for the removed and already limited mental health services.

The population in Gaza is currently grappling with various mental and psychosocial problems, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder -perhaps more accurately to be described as continuing-traumatic stress disorder-, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. This is not to mention how can Wounded Child, No Surviving Family (WCNSF) will turn out to be under these devastating conditions and no coping options!

The pervasive impact of the violence and traumatic events extends beyond individual suffering, affecting displaced population, essential services workers across various sectors, and even those witnessing them. The level of severe distress among these groups is challenging to measure, but its wide-reaching effects underscore the urgent need for comprehensive and massive mental health support- starting now and continuing for a long term.

Gaza has been described by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, as a "graveyard for children” and might be later seen as a crucible where the profound impact of untreated mental health issues reverberates through generations, leaving an indelible mark on Gaza’s community's “well-being”, and perhaps the watching world’s well-being too.

The writer is Executive Director, Eastern Mediterranean Public Health Network (EMPHNET)

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