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Addressing Palestinian mental health amidst violent conflict

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As a Black American Muslim and a mental health advocate, my identity intersects with the challenges experienced by the Palestinians. Just as my community has experienced the horrific effects of systemic oppression and discrimination, Palestinians have also endured generations of oppression. 

The limited media coverage of the Palestinian struggle has caused a situation in which a significant number of Black Americans have grown less responsive or attuned to the challenges faced by Palestinians. However, it is essential to recognize these shared experiences and acknowledge the importance of standing in solidarity with those who are oppressed. 

The enduring humanitarian crisis of the Gaza-Palestinian conflict has commanded worldwide attention for many decades. The most recent flare-up in October 2023 has once again thrust it into the forefront of global media coverage. Moreover, while the conflict itself is complex and deeply rooted in historical, political, and social issues, it is crucial to explore it through diverse lenses, including the perspective of Black Muslim mental health advocates. 

Addressing Mental Health Amidst Violent Conflict

Living under constant threat of violence, experiencing displacement, and witnessing the loss of loved ones can have severe psychological repercussions, regardless of one’s nationality, race, or faith.  

The Palestinian’s decades-long conflict has led to pervasive trauma, anxiety, depression, and various other mental challenges for Palestinians. For those living in Gaza, daily life stresses are compounded by the limited access to mental health resources and services.  

The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that in situations of armed conflict, “Around 10 % of the people who experience traumatic events will have serious mental health problems, and another 10 % will develop behavior that will hinder their ability to function effectively”. Depression, anxiety, and psychosomatic problems such as insomnia are the most common effects. 

Addressing Palestinian mental health amidst violent conflict
Photo by Palestinian journalist Motaz Azaiza 

As a mental health advocate, I believe that compassion and empathy are critical in understanding the mental health challenges that Palestinians in Gaza face. Our shared experiences of oppression and the struggles faced by marginalized communities unite us in our pursuit of justice and equality. Supporting the mental health and well-being of Palestinians should be a fundamental part of our advocacy. 

In both the Black and Muslim communities, there are huge stigmas surrounding mental health. Acknowledging stigmas is essential to destigmatize mental health issues in these communities and beyond. Addressing Gaza’s mental health crisis can dismantle stereotypes and barriers to seeking help.

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Resilience, Solidarity, and Mental Health Advocacy in the Palestinian Struggle

Resilience is a defining characteristic of both the Palestinian people and communities of color. By recognizing this strength, we can empower individuals in Gaza and marginalized communities to cope with trauma and stress together. This can be achieved through community support, access to mental health services, and initiatives that promote healing. 

As conflict persists, it’s crucial to remember its profound impact on the mental well-being of many Palestinians. I will, and it’s our duty to recognize intersecting identities and shared experiences. Let’s collaborate with those who recognize their humanity and address their current and long-term mental health challenges.

By showing solidarity, destigmatizing, and promoting mental health resources, we can help create a fairer and more compassionate world. This applies not only to the Palestinian community but also to everyone who experiences trauma during violent conflicts.

A Call for Advocacy

As the violence persists, and even after, we must use our platforms and voices to raise awareness of the growing mental health crisis and advocate for increased access to mental health resources for Palestinians. By doing so, we can contribute to a global movement for justice and equity. 

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