February 25, 2013 – Los Angeles, CA - Palestinians in the Gaza Strip will be able to access mental health services more easily in the coming years through a project launched by International Medical Corps with renewed support from the European Union (EU). A new grant of nearly $800,000 designed to improve medical staff training and promote the well-being of local communities is being launched with participation from International Medical Corps and four Palestinian organizations.
Research has shown that living conditions in Gaza – such as restricted movement, reduced access to education and health care, poverty and unemployment – can create stress and feelings of isolation and ultimately impact the rate of mental disorders within the population there. According to the UN, psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder in the Gaza Strip has dramatically risen following the escalation of violence last November. The recently-launched ‘Self Help – Self Heal’ program has been specifically designed to target populations living under prolonged conflict conditions and will empower people in Gaza to take care of their own individual and family mental health needs.
Children, adolescents, the elderly and those with pre-existing mental health issues are particularly at risk of severe psychological distress during crises. Families rarely know how to identify and respond to these symptoms. By training parents and caregivers and setting up peer support groups, International Medical Corps and the EU will help families to manage the mental health consequences of life in the Gaza Strip. The impact of the program will be multiplied by training Palestinian health care and rehabilitation staff and other professionals in Gaza to deliver this level of support and training to families affected by mental health issues. The program will reach more than 2,300 people through community centers in the Gaza Strip and more than 230 health professionals will receive training.
Since its inception nearly 30 years ago, International Medical Corps’ mission has been consistent: relieve the suffering of those impacted by war, natural disaster, and disease, by delivering vital health care services that focus on training. This approach of helping people help themselves is critical to returning devastated populations to self-reliance.