• gvanim

    “There is no doubt in my mind that Sderot’s Resilience Center made a major and significant contribution to the mental health of our city’s residents during Operation Cast Lead,” says Nitai Shreiber, Director of Gvanim Association in Sderot, Israel.

    During the most recent of Israel’s military operations, Sderot’s residents were caught between the Hamas militants of the Gaza Strip and Israel’s response to many years of unprovoked missile attacks on Israel’s civilians. According to Dalia Yosef, Director of Sderot’s Resilience Center, Operation Cast Lead brought with it a horrific intensification of both rocket fire and uncontrolled trauma. The Resilience Center proved to be one of the strongest and most important services available to Sderot’s communities during the war; in less than three weeks, the Center’s Emergency Room treated about 300 emotionally injured residents who needed extreme, immediate help. Hundreds more signed up for ongoing individual or group therapy.

    Trauma and anxiety are not new to Sderot. This city, and the communities near it, are located only a mile or less from the Gaza Strip and have been victims of unpredictable but continuous missile and mortar shell attacks for more than eight years. The region’s youngest children have known nothing but a life with daily missile attacks. During periods of intensification, schools are shut, businesses fail and even public gatherings are forbidden.

    The Resilience Center was established in late 2007 as a tool to provide professional support, treatment for those in trauma (according to some studies, that includes 90% of Sderot’s population) and training for the professionals who support the region’s residents. “We include elements in all our programs to help residents cope with trauma and challenges,” notes Chen Abrahams, from Gvanim’s directorship, who lives in nearby Kfar Aza. “We also focus on building community resilience. These are such clear, ongoing needs.” Symptoms of trauma can range from insomnia and inability to concentrate, apathy and depression, violent outbursts, physical illness, bedwetting (at every age) and hair loss to the inability to plan for the future or function on a daily basis. The Resilience Center welcomes all and provides treatment without stigma.

    In the first three months of 2009, almost 1,000 adults, youths and children received help in the form of individual or group therapy. People reach the Center by directly contacting it or by receiving a referral from social, educational or medical service providers. The number of those in need are likely to grow, Ms. Yosef explained, because many of Sderot’s families are afflicted with intense and deep-set anxieties and traumas as a result of the ongoing nature of the security crisis. Entire communities in Sderot have been swept up into feelings of hopelessness, infecting even the most resilient members of their community. The Resilience Center stands as a beacon of hope for community, family and individual rehabilitation.

    The Center’s work is far from done, but it has clearly become a leader in providing mental health services for the emotionally injured.

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