Al Jazeera interviewed psychologist Hasan Zeyada about increasing trauma responses in Gaza since the summer invasion. Dr. Zeyada works with the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, which the Gaza Mental Health Foundation supports. In his interview, Dr. Zeyada talk about an increasing demand for mental health care and how there’s no psychological wellbeing without human rights.
Al Jazeera: How has your patient load changed since the summer war?
Hasan Zeyada: We have more cases that are referred to our centres. It’s the immediate reaction after war. A lot of people had psychological and behavioural consequences because of the trauma during the military Israeli aggression. A lot of people, they are in need of consultation, they are in need of intervention. We started to do our intervention immediately through field visits for the families who lost their homes and lost their family members, and for the injured people.
The war was brutal and it was for a long time, and it’s the third experience for the children here in Gaza, so a lot of people have already developed acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. They are in need of intervention.
AJ: What are the most common psychological issues stemming from the war?
HZ: We are talking about sleep disturbances, like nightmares and insomnia; for children we are also talking about night terrors and sleep walking. We are talking also about re-experiencing and flashbacks among people related to the trauma.
There is avoidance behaviour, like thinking about the trauma, avoiding the places and stimulus that will make them remember the trauma. Also we are talking about hyper-arousal, hyper-vigilance; they are easily provoked, less tolerance.
There is marked impairment in daily functions and interpersonal relationships, and in work and academic achievements among their children.
Some of the people have somatic complaints like headaches, back pain, abdomen pain and general fatigue. It’s psychological, without any organic cause. It’s easier for the people to talk about physical complaints than to talk about psychological pain.
Sometimes they try to communicate with the people around them through their physical complaints, because we still have stigma and sensitivity around coming to a community mental health centre to be served. Because of that we also have our free phone counselling, which is totally confidential.
Without human rights, equitable access to wellness for Palestinians living in Gaza is under siege. Read the full interview.