Thursday, October 28

“In Gaza everything is against you”: psychological survival in the largest open-air prison

Diyaa is a young Palestinian refugee from Gaza who has found in painting a way to change the reality around him. But before being able to enjoy his love of art, the young man has had to overcome many barriers that led him to the extreme of trying to end his life. The Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people aged 15-29 living in the Strip.

“The meaning of my paintings reflects the reality we live in. I like to capture the different aspects of life in an artistic way, for example, violence. Violence is something that is very present in our society, ”says Diyaa.

According to the Swiss scientific journal Frontiers in Psychiatry 90% of children and adolescents in the Gaza Strip experience personal trauma at least once in their life and more than 80% have witnessed trauma in other people. It is estimated that this figure, already high, has been triggered by the escalation of violence in Gaza that they suffered in May of this year.

Diya has found help through psychological care provided at the United Nations Agency for Palestine Refugee Population (UNRWA) health centers in Gaza. “The psychosocial stress suffered by the population in Gaza due to poverty and living conditions is skyrocketing. Everyone lives under stress in Gaza and the entire population would need a psychological medical evaluation for all this. The number of suicides that we have identified is really considerable, ”says Dr Zoheir Al Khatib, director of the UNRWA Al Rimal health center in Gaza.

About a third of the more than 1.2 million refugees from Palestine attending UNRWA primary care services show symptoms of mental and social disorders. Among many other symptoms, affected people show depression, generalized anxiety, phobia of the dark, nervous breakdowns, inability to stop thinking about traumatic experiences and painful events, they feel that everything around them is insecure and that they live a bitter present and an ambiguous future.

To mitigate this situation, for a few years now, mental health care has been integrated into all UNRWA health centers in the coastal enclave. “In Gaza everything is against you. You find stress everywhere. You need someone to get out, otherwise one explodes. The stigma of needing mental health treatment is one of the main problems, but when you sensitize people and they feel there is a benefit, they definitely accept the change. We work a lot with the community. It is a very sensitive issue both in cultural and religious terms ”, affirms the doctor.

However, experts are observing is a change in the culture of the people. Now people go to health centers, ask for advice, seek medical care, want help. “No one can deny that you need someone to hold your hand and help you get out of that problem,” says the doctor. In this change, the United Nations organization has played an important role offering psychological care to more than 70% of the population of Gaza.

“Dr. Hind has been very supportive, she has helped me show my talents to the whole world. When I find one or more people who support me, I start to take care of myself, I start to take care of my art. I am fortunate to have met people who inspire and move me. Among them Dr. Hind and also my family who have helped me a lot. I would like to be of help to others who may need it. It is important to know that we can all count on someone that he supports us and that he be there when we need him ”, affirms the young artist, Diyaa.

This year, the World Health Organization commemorates World Mental Health Day under the slogan: “Mental health care for all: let’s make it happen”. In this way we join your claim. And we reiterate the conviction that healing a psychological injury resulting from perpetual trauma is a fundamental task. Something that will be achieved by recognizing its importance, as one more care to add to those that we already have assumed and allocating the necessary resources. The future of the Gazan population depends on it.





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