Resolution #4: Improving the Treatment of Trauma in Israel, Gaza, and Elsewhere

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What can we learn from war trauma?

PTSD

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PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

The terrible psychological trauma toll of the Vietnam War had its positive offshoot as necessity became the mother of necessity, as traumatic events often do. The understanding and consequent classification of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) emerged, along with advanced treatment techniques. Eventually, what was learned from the war trauma was successfully applied to all kinds of harmful trauma.

Perhaps something similar will come out of the current Mideast war. As reported in the article, “Survivors of the Nova massacre on October 7 working through trauma of unique Israeli center,” an innovative program has been helping the survivors of the Nova music festival from the invasion of October 7.1 So many have suffered from acute or slowly emerging PTSD, often ending up withdrawn and staying home.

Enter the Free Spirit nonprofit treatment program that has been previously applied to anxiety, depression, and substance abuse problems. For the invasion-related trauma, Free Spirit began its free treatment within 2 weeks of October 7th, characterized by:

-Being a 3-day therapeutic workshop in a psychologically safe environment that can be repeated

-Adding yoga, pottery-making, art, acupuncture, carpentry, and ice baths to bring comfort to those unable to share their reactions

-Traditional group therapy, but also over communal activities like preparing and eating meals

-Normalizing feelings of survivor guilt and self-criticism

Though long-term outcome studies will be needed, so far the results indicate that those suffering do better the earlier they receive such help. Posttraumatic growth and strength are the ultimate goal for all.

These techniques can be—and have been—applied to other traumatic events. That means that once Gaza is safer again, such innovative psychological rebuilding treatments should be available to the public there in addition to the physical rebuilding.

Israel has the tradition of being an innovation nation and being the first nation to apply disaster response to any global emergency. As it addresses anti-Semitism, may it also be able to fulfill its traditional goal of helping others, including in its own neighborhood if at all peacefully possible.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry and is now in retirement and retirement 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.

Reference

1. Luxner L. Survivors of the Nova massacre on Oct. 7 work through trauma at unique Israeli therapy center. The Jerusalem Post. January 9, 2024. Accessed January 11, 2024. https://www.jpost.com/health-and-wellness/mind-and-spirit/article-781347

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