Long-term exposure to violence has taken its toll on many Palestinians’ mental health. Ongoing political conflicts coupled with extreme socio-economic pressures have left generation after generation living in fear and insecurity.
Palestinians living under occupation are subject to regular military incursions, arrests, clashes and demonstrations. In addition, access to basic services such as education, health and places of worship are limited and freedom of movement is severely restricted.
According to rights organisations, 3,401 Palestinians were detained in 2015, the youngest being eight years old. The detained are held primarily for throwing stones, which carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years. One in three detainees has reported violence at the hands of occupation forces. In the same year, 150 Palestinians were killed including 27 children.
This environment leaves countless Palestinians with a number of conditions including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, depression, relational problems and learning disorders that can severely limit their quality of life and future prospects.
The Palestinian Counselling Center (PCC) was established in 1983 by a group of psychologists, educators and community activists to provide professional mental health services to Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
PCC has played a pivotal role in introducing the concept of mental health in Palestine when only out-dated psychiatric approaches were still in practice. Work at the centre began on a voluntary basis, working to raise awareness through schools and communities and stressing the importance of counselling as an effective form of therapy for psychosocial problems.
Today, PCC runs a Therapy Programme aimed at groups that suffer mental health issues, a Prevention Programme that addresses groups at risk of developing mental health issues, and a Capacity Building Programme for organisations and individuals specialised in mental health. In parallel, PCC works on advocacy for the improvement of legislation, policies, procedures and systems related to mental health in Palestine. In 2015, PCC had a direct impact on 20,646 people, including 12,388 children.
Photo: Faiz Abu Rmeleh