Reflections on Visiting Grandchildren as the War in the Middle East Erupts

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Is the world safe for our grandchildren?

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PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

My wife and I were all set on October 2nd to leave for a projected 6,000+ mile road trip to visit 2 of our grandchildren, one starting college at Rice in Houston, the other starting at a high school for the arts in Idyllwild, California. We assumed the hardest part would be driving so far and so long at our age.

But it was not. The hardest part was having the trip broken up by the horrors of the Middle East crisis starting on October 7th. We could have a wonderful day visiting them, seemingly so happy in their new environments, or being awestruck by seeing something on the way like the annular eclipse. But then we returned to our hotels to watch teenagers their ages killed one horrendous way or another. What cognitive dissonance, especially when I sat down to write these columns if I had the time or energy to do so or not.

With the ever-rising anti-Semitism, how safe will their futures be? Fortunately, at neither school has there so far been obviously increased conflict between Jewish and Muslim students, nor any apparent rise in anti-Semitism or Islamophobia, like there has been at so many schools around our country.

There is so much mental health risk for young individuals like our grandchildren: climate instability, nuclear war, cultish thinking, environmental poisoning, all the kids of xenophobia, and rising mental disturbance prevalence in general, among them. Increasing numbers of individuals are deciding not to have children and bring them into such a world.

We are now safely back home, but the war rages on in the Middle East, making a normal life with safety and security even more of a thing of the past. This is also true in Ukraine and in many other places in the world.

Some colleagues say these conflicts and discrimination are just human nature and nothing really can be done. However, as the author Stephen Pinker wrote in his book title, perhaps there are better “angels” of ourselves. Can we find those angels before it is too late for our grandchildren?

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry, and is now in retirement and refirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.

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