From the beginning of 2023 through July 17, 124 Palestinian-Arab citizens lost their lives in circumstances of violence and crime. Alongside these victims, this violence also results in serious harm to people who sustain physical injuries and trauma, against the background of constant shooting attacks on the streets. In this depressing reality, children grow up with a sense of insecurity, exposed to gunfights, protection rackets, threats, severe physical and verbal violence, and the prominent presence of criminal elements in the public domain. All these phenomena cause tangible anxiety – a profound and existential fear from which none – not even children – are exempt.
Anxiety and trauma have significant and long-term ramifications for children’s mental health: They may be manifested in physical pain, bedwetting, and sleeping disorders, as well as in phobias, avoidance, social withdrawal, and declining academic achievements. Accordingly, the state must act to prevent and treat psychological disorders due to violence, including post-trauma – phenomena that are liable to cause extensive suffering and to encourage high-risk behaviors due to the severe level of distress.
The Abraham Initiatives believes that it is vital to provide an urgent and effective therapeutic response in the field of mental health in Arab society. The following are our recommendations:
- Relevant state institutions should investigate and map the scope of psychological damage among children.
- The state should act to raise awareness of the severe psychological ramifications of violence and crime among children in Arab society within Arab society itself. This should include guiding parents in ways to identify psychological problems in children and ensuring access to ways to address these problems.
- The goals of the Resilience Centers in Arab communities should be updated to include assistance for victims of anxiety against the background of violence and crime. It must be ensured that the centers employ Arab workers, or at least workers who speak Arabic. These centers should be budgeted sufficiently to enable them to provide a response over the telephone, including anonymously, as well as short-term and long-term psychotherapy.
- Mental health services should be provided through schools, community centers, and HMOs: training should be provided in providing an initial response in Arabic, including cultural adaptation, for teachers and community instructors and medical and administrative staff in community clinics; additional staffing positions should be added for mental health experts at the existing clinics in Arab society; support groups should be established for parents, young people, and children.
- The state must address the grave shortage of psychologists, psychiatrists, and other therapeutic professionals in Arab society. Arab young adults should be encouraged to study the various therapeutic professions (particularly clinical specialization, all fields of psychology, and other professions). Obstacles facing Arab young adults who wish to study these professions should be identified and removed.
Submitted in July 2023