Part of Hebron is controlled by the Israeli army. Freedom of movement of the Palestinians is heavily restricted by checkpoints and Israel’s separation fence, hindering civilians from finding work, attending school, or visiting their families. © Moises Saman/Magnum Photos
Since 30 March this year, the level of violence in Gaza in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has significantly escalated. Over 5,000 people have been injured. While a large proportion of Gazan patients treated by MSF suffer from gunshot wounds that could potentially cause life-changing disabilities, their peers in the West Bank continue to endure the lasting impact of the Israeli occupation on their mental health. “Every day, our teams work to support people suffering psychologically as a direct result of events related to the violence, including detention of relatives, violent home and school raids, house demolitions, killing of family members, searches at checkpoints, and day to day harassments by settlers and soldiers,” said Juan Carlos Ramos, MSF head of mission in Palestine.
In the West Bank city of Hebron, home to 215,000 Palestinians, MSF has been running mental health support programmes since 2001. This year alone, the teams have already provided over 6,400 people with individual or group counselling, psychotherapy, psychological first aid or psycho-educational support. The main symptoms seen among the patients include anxiety, sleeping problems, and feelings of sadness and fear. “Many of the people affected are teenagers and that will mark their adult life. At this age, they want freedom, moving around without constraints, and a future,”said Mervat Suboh, an MSF psychologist in Hebron.
Mental health problems, though prevalent in Palestine, remain a stigmatised topic. Raising awareness about the importance of mental health is therefore critical in encouraging the Palestinians to find support when needed.
For Palestinians, the checkpoints serve as daily threats, cause of humiliation and reminders of the difficulty of living under Israeli occupation. © Moises Saman/Magnum Photos
43-year-old Raed, a father of six, was shot by Israeli soldiers during clashes. Not being able to provide for his family, Raed is suffering from depression. © Moises Saman/Magnum Photos
Palestinian teenagers live in a place where traumatic events constantly occur, leading to anger, anxiety and a lack of hope for the future. © Moises Saman/Magnum Photos
Youssef’s childhood was haunted by violence. The 13-year-old boy used to be angry, withdrawn and afraid of leaving his house. After receiving mental healthcare provided by MSF, he is now able to go outside and play with others. © Moises Saman/Magnum Photos