Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) also known as ‘shell shock’ or ‘battle fatigue syndrome’ is a serious mental condition, which is a lasting consequence of traumatic ordeals that cause intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
Press TV has interviewed Dr. Lina Geha, psychologist at the Palestine Trauma Center about the state of trauma inflicted on the population of Palestine with particularly focus on the children by the Israeli occupiers. What follows is an approximate transcript of the interview.
Press TV: Just responding to what we saw on that video there, a family broken down, the bread winner ground down by just daily life under a rather oppressive situation. See that close up? What does it do to a family?
Geha: It really puts a big strain on all the resources, the mental, especially we are talking here about psychological not mental. It brings them close to being destroyed really. One of the things that are in WHO, the World Health Organization reports, in Amnesty reports and also in studies I’m going to quote in a minute is the difficulties all around.
So there were huge difficulties to start with before the bombardment in December of 2008/2009. I’m going to start chronologically just to build up the picture: In 2006, June for example till 2007 – we’re talking about the siege here, before the bombardment, coming to that in a moment – Dr. Mohamed Altawil had done for example one of the researches that I have read that said 41 percent of children have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
This word PTSD usually when we say somebody has been here in an accident in England or has had a scene of fire or some big problem like domestic violence or whatever, it is Post-Traumatic Stress–something that happens after an incident or an accident.
But when we talk about children in Gaza or Palestinian children, refugees all over, but in Gaza in particular, that doesn’t stop. I’m going to come to that a little bit later.
So, coming back to the research done by Dr. Abdul Aziz Thabet and colleagues in the Gaza Mental Health Community Program, they have found that 98.3 percent of children have PTSD. This research was done during the bombardment in 2008 or 2009 and for 22 days, so there is more research to be done and I am sure it has been done way after, but during the 22 days they have done research over something like nearly 400 children. Only 1.3 percent did not show symptoms of PTSD then.
So severe PTSD was something like 61 percent, 29 percent was moderate and mild was 7.something.
Press TV: But how does it manifest itself? How do you know this is what they have?
Geha: There are lots of tests and you can work with someone immediately you know that is traumatized, it could be anything from not speaking to bed wetting, nightmares, not being able to sleep, not being able to talk. Generally it’s usually obvious.
I mean think of the children under those circumstances in particular being at home watching their city being bombarded, their relatives can’t protect them; dying or injured. Something like 300 children died and I don’t know something like thousands that were injured. Not speak of women, not speak of men and everybody else.
So, think of a bombardment that’s not targeting anyone in particular. It’s not like there are targets and they know that they live in that area or this person or that response…
Press TV: So there’s a specter of safety… you don’t feel that?
Geha: There’s not. And on top of that, the medical aid was as you well know sort of almost blocked if not blocked entirely – I don’t have the exact details, but it was very difficult to get help if you were a Gaza citizen trying to even escape. Forget it. There was nowhere safe because there were some of the bombardments that would bombard anything that was moving.
So, to be with a trauma like that, at least you know that there will be some ambulance if it was not this country or somewhere else, they will come to rescue you, you’d be taken to hospital or whatever, but they didn’t have that option.
Press TV: So life becomes this constant state of agitation and fear in some cases…
Geha: There is no place where you know you are not going to be necessarily aimed at or targeted or shelled.
Press TV: Is a part of this trauma the fact as you mentioned here, there is no protection? Normally you go to your Mum and Dad and they say we’ll fix it for you or we’ll call the authorities, it will all be better… It isn’t.
Geha: No. Gerard Horton of the Defense for Children International said, it’s not as if that they have been targeting the children who committed crimes if, you know whatever the crimes are, I’m not going to comment on that; it’s just anybody and everybody.
So it builds up; I mean Donald Winnicott comes to mind when he says about reactions to such things is that, people become more militant or angrier or they want to become more muscled – he was talking about the muscularization, of trying to be more tough. And we come to resilience with that and group resilience.
So, may be their aim was to kill terrorists or whatever it is, but it had been done generally on a huge population and it wasn’t targeted at anyone in particular.
So what it is doing it is perpetuating a cycle and I think everybody is concerned, those who are receiving and those who are throwing or perpetrating, are involved in this cycle, the work needs to done on both.