Israel’s war on Gaza mental toll: Jordanian experts weigh in

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AMMANOctober 7 came to reignite the pain and anger that had been stored in the hearts of every Palestinian, Jordanian, and Arab. Since that day, the pain has proliferated, and people everywhere have been experiencing a variety of emotions while witnessing a genocide live on TV and all social media platforms. While the international community took it as a surprise, it was just another reminder of the ongoing 75-plus-year occupation.اضافة اعلان

Since October 7th, approximately 15,000 Palestinians, including 6,000 children, have been killed, with an additional 36,000 injured, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. Moreover, there are 1.8 million internally displaced persons across the Gaza Strip, and more than 46,000 homes have been destroyed, with over 234,000 housing units otherwise damaged. These figures account for over 60 percent of the housing stock, as reported by Al Jazeera and Relief Web.

It is crucial not to overlook that between October 7 and November 27 of this year, 242 Palestinians, including 57 children, lost their lives, and 2,750 were injured in the Occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Additionally, 260 Palestinians were arrested since the truce, with a total of 3,260 since October 7, Al Jazeera reported.

Watching this level of brutality live on TV and social media has a multitude of immediate and long-term biopsychological effects on people's mental health, Abdullah Abu Adass Consultant Psychiatrist reported. The most dominant scenario is clinical acute stress and post-traumatic stress disorders.

This is not post
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition caused by experiencing or witnessing a shocking terrifying event, according to the Mayo Clinic. Whereas clinical acute stress is an intense dysfunctional reaction to a hostile event, with effects lasting for approximately a month. If effects persist for longer than a month then the person will be diagnosed with PTSD. However, the keyword in PTSD is post, many would agree that to be diagnosed with PTSD, the traumatic experience must pass.

Such disorders affect all age groups and affect mostly people of psychological fragility, such as people suffering from pre-psychological disorders such as major depression.

“Witnessing a war may cause sleep disorders, appetite disturbance, feelings of physical and psychological insecurity, and frequent nightmares,” Abu Adass said. He added that it may also cause negative feelings, low mood, and multiple physical symptoms such as body aches.

Community depression
Witnessing a war also involves experiencing irritability and social withdrawal, both of which contribute to the psychological pollution affecting the public, creating an overall image of community depression.

Moreover, exposure to war scenes may elevate the risk of self-harm and increase susceptibility to substance abuse.

Psycho-local consequences
It is important to mention that psycho-local consequences also affect people’s ability to work and perform regular functions, which adds even further burdens on economic growth.

The variations of trauma
However, the trauma experienced by the people of Gaza is drastically different from the one experienced by Palestinians and Jordanians in Jordan and abroad according to Durrah Afyouni, Neuroscience and Neuroimaging MSci, Junior Psychotherapist.

She said people in Gaza are experiencing constant trauma and death, they’re not even able to grieve because there's not enough time to do so with the heavy bombardment.

“They will experience trauma for many generations to come,” Afyouni said.

From pride to honor
“The first few days were full of pride, honor, and hope as I realized this was nothing like before, however after the scenes started coming from Gaza, and after the War Crimes committed in front of the world, the most showing feeling was anger and sadness, plus a huge feeling of incapability,” Ward AlAllan an activist and member of the Popular Unity Party said.

It is dangerous to normalize death
“The first dangerous thing is to live and normalize death. To see, hear, and live death and for it to become a folded story, for people to turn into numbers, leaves devastating psychological effects. It makes the size of the suppressed pain much bigger,” Nidal Mansour journalist and co-founder of the Center for Defending Journalists said.

Mansour adds that all Arabs are feeling paralyzed even though Arab countries do have the power to change the current status quo that people in the West Bank and Gaza are living in.

It will eventually an end
Abu Adass and Afyouni advise those impacted when facing such psychologically agonizing situations to understand that one should focus on the fact that war is an exception, not a rule, and will eventually end.

Psychological first aid to people whether living or witnessing war scenes should be considered as a first-line intervention as other emergency biological intervention. Checking in with oneself and speaking positive monologues and dialogues with oneself and others are very important for releasing negative emotions and reconstructing negative thoughts.

Helping others via donations, for example, has a massive positive impact on both, those experiencing the war as well as those spectating it.

Specialized care such as psychosocial care should also be available to help manage severe cases. Group support and community-based public support should also be considered as an outline of intervention. Accordingly, channeling some of the energy through protesting safely and peacefully, boycotting, and going to events where there exists a sense of community and togetherness can remind us that we are not alone, and can comfortably rely on our environment to pull us back to a safe emotional harbor.

In the end, there is no one correct way to handle such tragedy, everyone mourns differently and processes differently.

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