IMPROVING RESILIENCE IN ISRAELI & PALESTINIAN COMMUNITIES
No child should ever know what it feels like to fear for their life. This can have severe consequences on their mental health and development. Psychological interventions like ours can have a hugely positive impact.
Significant numbers of children witnessing violent events, or fearing they may become victims of them, are unable to make sense of their experiences and often have no one to talk to. A considerable proportion of young people also develop significant distress symptoms following exposure to war-related conditions which may impact on their long-term development. Around 10% of Israeli adolescents and 40% of Palestinian adolescents have Post-Traumatic Stress, figures that are all the more startling given that children under 18 represent almost 50% of Palestinians and 40% of Israelis. The existence of untreated trauma has been linked to a higher incidence of violence within these communities (particularly in schools), impacting negatively on social cohesion.
The schools-based intervention of CHERISH, supported by One to One Children’s Fund between 2006 and 2010, was set up to address the mental health of children on both sides of the divide. It was a unique collaborative effort of Israeli and Palestinian psychologists, psycho-social workers and public health experts. Teachers were first trained to recognise difficult emotions and changes in children’s behaviour and then to try out different cognitive behavioural exercises. After children were screened, participation in whole-class activities helped to lessened stress and build up resilience. We also made sure to identify children with severe symptoms so they could be given specific treatment.
A total of 1,500 children were reached in 3 primary schools, two based in Acre, Israel (one Jewish school and one Arab school) and one in Bethlehem, Palestinian Territory.
The program was taken over by the Municipality of Acre, working with our implementation partner, the Israeli Centre for Psycho-trauma.
*Hiba's name has been changed