Unicef estimates 373,000 children in Gaza are in desperate need of psycho-social support. However, given the continuous strain on health resources, mental health issues are often sidelined, leaving thousands of children without appropriate medical attention to heal their traumas and mental scars. If you would like to understand more about mental health trauma please click here.
In an effort to raise awareness and much needed funds, Cycling4Gaza #C4G2015 supported the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund‘s (PCRF) newly launched Pediatric Mental Health Project in Gaza. The goal is to assess children’s needs, provide them the service they require, and train social workers in Gaza on the topic. We successfully raised 286,000 USD supporting the launch and running of the project for a year.
To date, social workers have received extensive training on administering the two screening questionnaires prepared by the medical professionals assigned by the PCRF. Over 1,300 children have been screened by 5 field workers to date and their subsequent care program is currently being developed.
The project details are as follows:
1. Gaza Mental Health Screening
– Data analysis using SPSS software
– Submitting Publications— academic journals and media outlets to increase international awareness for the current situation
– Short video production to be utilized in presentations
2. Providing Clinical Services for Affected Children
– Provide immediate treatment for the 10% most significantly impacted children which have already been identified (120 children which fulfil criteria for PTSD)
– Partner with local organizations to provide the required medical services and treatment
– Increase coordination of care between the PCRF social workers and local mental health providers
– Develop the capacity within PCRF to provide basic therapeutic support through hiring clinical social workers with mental health experience
– Develop group interventions for parents of moderately to severely affected children
3. Developing and Providing Education and Training for Personnel in Gaza
– Recruit volunteers to assist in training of staff social workers monthly to bi-monthly on topics pertaining to mental health
– Bring in training teams of clinicians; psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists to train local staff and partnering organizations
4. Further Program Development
– Develop and initiate group interventions designed to provide a therapeutic outlet for children
– Develop and initiate group interventions designed to provide psychoeducation and processing outlet for parents
– Build therapeutic playgrounds in collaboration with Playgrounds for Palestine to create safe and happy environments for the children to recover and reintegrate into society
The Gaza Mental Health Project is committed to identifying and treating children in Gaza in need of mental health care. Furthermore, the project aims to highlight the importance of addressing mental health care as a vital aspect of maintaining a normal and happy life, specifically in traumatic environments. This project will help transform the provision of mental health care in Gaza, in turn providing children with the means to successfully integrate in society and to educate the wider population on the key challenges currently being faced in Gaza.
This is Ibrahim, who lives in Rafah, in the South of Gaza. He and his brother are both receiving treatment from the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) and Ibrahim also attended our summer camps. They witnessed their 16 year old brother die from an Israeli bombing and both sustained significant injuries. The boys suffered from intense symptoms of trauma, including bed-wetting, nightmares, trembling, and flashbacks. Their schools and home life were impacted significantly. They have made some noticeable improvements; as Ibrahim said, “step by step” he is feeling better and more optimistic. His father was incredibly grateful to the PCRF for providing mental health support and pleased with his son’s improvements. He even joked with the PCRF staff, saying that the PCRF is stuck with him and they would have to throw him out the window before he agrees to go somewhere else for support!
These two miracles, Yamen and Janna, were pulled out of the rubble after their three level family home collapsed last year killing 19 of their family members, including their entire immediate family. They are now living with their uncle’s family in central Gaza. Their uncle’s wife was so happy to talk about Yaman’s experience at the mental wellness summer camps, saying it was like “magic”, bringing him joy and lifting his mood. In addition to some of the most beautiful and kindest souls, I am touched to have met incredible, strong mothers in Gaza. When one of Yaman’s cousins teased him about not coming out of his mother’s womb, he went to his uncle’s wife and asked if this was true. She said to him, “yes that’s true, but you both came out of my heart, and that is all that matters.”
“The skills provided me with serenity I’ve never felt before; meditation filled me with spirituality in my prayers, I felt like it was the first time I actually prayed!” – M.A.
Itt was a great chance for us as PCRF staff to know each other, the iceberg between us is destroyed and we can communicate and work with a new positive spirit.” – M.F
“I’m pleased to be a part of such new, unique, and sophisticated training. I was able to discover my feelings. I’m ready to face problem and solve them. I needed this training; it helped me avoid negative thoughts and recharged me with cheerful thinking.” – A.G.