In response to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza, Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) renews our call for members and friends to support the urgent work of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme.
As an organization focused on psychology’s contributions to peace and positive social change, PsySR is keenly aware of the profound psychological impact of living in a war zone, including the following:
- Psychological distress in war zones is often as great as the physical suffering that receives more widespread attention. For some, including children, coping with issues of family separation, multiple losses, and bereavement can be even more unbearable than other health-related concerns.
- People already under stress before an attack – from severe poverty, chronic exposure to harsh imposed restrictions, and past bloodshed – are likely to have stronger and more overwhelming psychological reactions to violence.
- Prolonged fears of attack, powerful feelings of helplessness, and deep worries about family and community heighten the damaging psychological effects of life-threatening events and can contribute to ongoing cycles of violence.
- The magnitude of psychological suffering in war zones can be mitigated somewhat by people's immediate and continuing access to individual and family supports, along with broader efforts that are locally, culturally, and psychologically-informed.
As a result of the indiscriminate targeting of civilians, psychological suffering has overtaken communities across the Palestinian territories and Israel this summer. However, we believe that external financial support for community healing is particularly essential in Gaza. In our judgment, this is not only because Israeli forces have engaged in the disproportionate use of violence in recent weeks, including reported attacks on schools, hospitals, ambulances, and health professionals, but also because of the exceedingly difficult socioeconomic circumstances and the harsh and seemingly hopeless conditions brought about by the decades’ long occupation.
Ultimately, a just and lasting peace and a brighter future for Palestinians and Israelis alike will require that these psychological consequences and considerations receive serious and sustained attention.
With a special emphasis on vulnerable groups including children, women, and victims of torture and human rights violations, the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) provides crucial and irreplaceable mental health services to thousands of Gaza residents. These services will be even more broadly and desperately needed in the days and months immediately ahead. Throughout its history, the GCMHP has also been firmly committed to nonviolent resistance and to working for a world where Palestinians and Israelis can live together in peace.
The Programme has suffered extensively from the fighting this past month, with several staff, including the director, suffering family losses. In times such as these, external aid can be important beyond the purely financial support by serving as an expression of caring and compassion from the outside world.
Organizing help for the GCMHP is one way that we, as psychologists and mental health providers, can counter the despair and hopelessness bred in all parties by this renewed outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas. In so doing, we make a statement in support of human rights, mutual recognition and security, and a pathway to the reconciliation that must underlie a sustainable peace in this region.
Donations should be made by check payable to the Gaza Mental Health Foundation and mailed to the Gaza Mental Health Foundation, PO Box 380273, Cambridge, MA 02238. Please include your name, address, telephone number, and email address. 100% of your donation will be sent to GCMHP. Your donation is tax-deductible to the extent provided by section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
The Steering Committee of Psychologists for Social Responsibility
August 13, 2014