Israeli population grapples with mental health crisis amidst ongoing conflict

World Health Organisation
World Health Organisation

On Day 17 of the Israel-Hamas conflict, the World Health Organisation underscored that the Israeli population is shaking, in grief and facing the challenge of healing since October 7. WHO Special Representative in Israel, Dr Michel Thieren, mentioned that “it is on their minds 24 hours a day.

Dr Thieren mentioned, “It has added to the collective psychological burden witnessed nationwide, triggering an acute need for mental health services.” He also outlined that he has observed that mental health problems have become frequent among the population.

Visual Representative of distorted mental health | Credits: Google Images

According to WHO, he further stated that human suffering is immense. People just don’t feel safe anymore, and this is a complete change in their recent history.

Furthermore, the WHO Representative outlined the experiences of the nurses, doctors and other medical staff who listen to the stories of the people. He emphasized that there is a high chance that their mental health gets disturbed.

The reports have outlined that in this conflict of more than two weeks, around 1400 people have lost their lives, injuring 4600 people – which has burdened the healthcare workers as they are working around the clock to treat each and every person.

Dr Michel Thieren reviews the health response

WHO Special Representative in Israel, Dr Michel Thieren, has been reviewing the health response on multiple fronts, visiting hospitals, listening to the injured, talking to displaced people, and touring destroyed and deserted towns and villages, according to the news release posted by WHO.

Amid the official visit, Dr Thieren also toured a hospital in the coastal city of Ashkelon, where the patient count has been snoring. He shared, “What is so striking is that almost all the people I spoke to, the vast majority of them with severe injuries from gunshots, shrapnel and burns, did not want to talk about themselves at all but about the people they had seen die in front of them.”

People in Israel crying because of ongoing conflict | Credits: Google

“Almost every one of those survivors had seen someone else die before they themselves were injured. They are absolutely haunted by this. It is dominant in their thoughts. So many need urgent mental health support,” he informed additionally.

Several reports have suggested that in Israel, the health care and medical facilities have been attacked around eight (8) times, which has caused the deaths of around seven people.  

Dr Thieren’s remark about hostages

WHO Representative in Israel further outlined about more than 200 Israeli hostages who are kept hostage by Gaza militants. He outlined that the captivated people have been suffering from pre-existing health conditions that require continuity of care. After having a conversation with families of abducted Israelis, Dr Thieren outlined, “The fact that so many Israelis are still being held hostage by Hamas means that there is no chance for the wider public to begin the healing process.”

WHO Representative in Israel Dr Thieren’s visit to military bases

Accordingly, the release by WHO has also outlined that Dr Thieren also toured several military bases where the dead bodies of the victims were refrigerated. He underscored that the doctors and forensic experts are working to identify the bodies, which are packed in plastic bags.

He explained, “There are obviously adult bodies and children’s bodies, but the vast majority of bags are misshapen. Despite Israel having some of the best forensic doctors in the world, only 700 – barely half of the 1400 victims – have been positively identified so far. This, of course, is incredibly impactful on those that are doing this necessary work.”

WHO Special Representative Dr Thieren added, “I have visited ghost towns in the south whose populations have been evacuated. There is still the terrible stench of death. I have listened to so many people telling their stories. Survivors, the injured, psychiatrists, doctors, first responders and soldiers – all their accounts are horrific. The shadow of national shock and grief has plunged this country into night. When mental health perishes, so does physical health.”

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