Gaza’s traumatized youth increasingly turn to music therapy

The number of people with serious psychological disorders continues to increase in the Gaza Strip.

“The incidence of mental disorders in the Gaza Strip has reached 22%,” Samah Jabr, a psychiatrist and head of the Mental Health Unit of the Palestinian Ministry of Health, said in October.

“This percentage is 12 points higher than the normal rate in other countries due to the continuous Israeli violations against our people, in addition to diseases related to genetic and biological aspects,” he added.

As a result of the low standard of living, high unemployment and high poverty rate, frustrating political conditions and the collapse of the economy, the more than two million inhabitants of Gaza live under strong psychological pressure, in a state that can compare yourself to a time bomb. .

All of these circumstances combine to create an ideal environment for psychological disorders to emerge in almost all age groups, psychologist Raeda Weshah told The Media Line.

“Due to constant exposure to triggers of psychological trauma, children, for example, are displaying some seriously disturbed behaviors such as extreme aggression, excessive movement and lack of concentration,” Weshah said.

“Even adults have begun to suffer from excessive nervousness and excessive violent behavior with disproportionate reactions to circumstances,” he continued. “Unfortunately, the situation has worsened and the mental health of the strip has become even more dangerous with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In an attempt to alleviate the devastating psychological effects experienced by residents, the Gaza-based Kayan Cultural Center, with the help of its psychological counseling unit, decided to combine traditional psychiatric treatment with music therapy.

Taghreed Shafout, therapist and executive director of the Kayan Cultural Center in Gaza. (credit: courtesy)

“Music therapy is not new but [the conservative] Gazans are not familiar with it, despite the exceptional conditions and state of war they live in, “Taghreed Shafout, therapist and executive director of the Kayan center, told The Media Line.

As part of the center’s effort to encourage Gazans to build a healthy relationship with psychotherapy, it provides “special psychological support where individual and group music therapy sessions are conducted with certain musical notes to help people suffering from Certain psychological problems overcome the negative psychological effects of trauma, relieve pressure and improve your general mood, ”Shafout said.

Most of the center’s patients are college students experiencing pre-exam stress and post-traumatic stress, especially after the latest violent escalation with Israel last May, according to Shafout.

“Our programs include a variety of creative activities, including regular music events and poetry recitals designed to provide group psychological relief. This has led to a remarkable change in Gaza’s attitudes towards this type of therapy and helped many overcome their personal struggles, ”he said.

Shafout cites one of the best success stories, a college student who overcame the severe post-traumatic psychological side effects that emerged after the May 11-day cross-border violence between Gaza and Israel.

“He described himself as confused and unfocused most of the time, and sleeping and eating disorders made the crisis worse. All he could hear were the screams of his neighbors who were attacked during the Israeli airstrikes, which made it difficult for him to maintain a good academic performance, ”Shafout said.

However, she said, “After three sessions, he began to regain mental clarity and mental balance, and he also became more focused, organized and positive, which made me happy and proud of him.”

Shafout said he hopes his little project, which is bringing peace to people in desperate need of psychological relief, “will be accepted and supported so that it can help more people.”

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