According to (Brady, 2020), mental health is a huge problem in Palestine, but is hardly talked about or addressed. In Palestine, estimates suggest that around a third of the population are in need of mental health services and that Palestine has the highest rate of mental health problems in the Middle East. These staggering statistics can be attributed to the 50-year history of occupation and violence and the current political and social events in the region. Furthermore, research suggests that more than 40% of Palestinians suffer from depression.
The situation becomes more alarming when it comes to children. A study found that 54% of boys and 46.5% of girls aged between 6-12 years had emotional or behavioural disorders. Specifically in the Gaza Strip, according to estimates, after 2009, 30% of adolescents reported symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This figure increased to 54% after 2014. Children reported symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, distressing thoughts and trouble sleeping.
A part of this lack of mental health awareness has had a specific effect on Palestinian women. It is estimated that 25% of women in the Gaza Strip have faced domestic violence or abuse at some time as men lose faith and confidence in the face of their traumatic experiences. Women also tend to have higher rates of mental disorders than men.
Although the need for mental health services is very high in Palestine, it remains a very under-funded sector of public health. This is partially because of the stigma that still remains around mental disorders, which discourages acknowledging or treating these issues due to shame.
Also, (Afana et al., 2004) reported that “the Palestinian population has been exposed to a series of traumatic events, including imprisonment, torture and human rights abuses, house demolitions, land confiscation, movement restrictions and the indignities of unemployment and under-employment”
It was also reported that the commonly held belief by Palestinians is that mental illness is the result of possession by supernatural forces. This possession has religious roots, and cannot be explained in psychological or psychiatric terms (Afana et al., 2004).
There is a pressing need to address the causes of mental illness in Palestine whether it is through funding or raising awareness. But the greatest cause is living under Israeli occupation and the frequent assaults on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Also, the Israeli blockade has prevented goods from coming into Gaza or from going out since 2007.
It is the civilian population who have been hit hardest by the 14 year blockade as Gaza has the highest unemployment rate in the world and 80 percent of the population of almost two million require humanitarian aid. Due to regular bombing of infrastructure Gazans don’t even have access to clean water.
Brady, S (2020, December 5) Tackling mental health in Palestine. The Borgen Project Tackling Mental Health in Palestine | The Borgen Project
Afana, A, H (2004, November) Mental health needs in Palestine Humanitarian Practice Network Mental health needs in Palestine – Humanitarian Practice Network (odihpn.org)