Community mental health program / Trauma Track

Trauma in Palestine is on-going (EL-Saraj, et al 2005). Since 1967 occupation of West Bank and Gaza as the Palestinians had to live under the Israeli  military occupation and they are experiencing various forms of outcomes of political violence such as killing, injuries, arresting, house demolition, torture, land confiscation ..etc., which produce generations of traumatized people (Awwad, 1998).  Other forms of trauma  that are experienced by the Palestinian people in addition to war and accidents are sexual abuse, physical abuse, and the loss or the death of loved persons.

One of the reactions of such violence is post traumatic stress reactions which ranged in children from 10% (Thabet and Vostanis, 2000) to  (71%) in the community sample from areas of shelling in North and East of  Gaza  (Thabet et al, 2008). Also, the prevalence of PTSD/MD for men living in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem was 25.4%/29.9%, 22.6%/27.6%, and 16.1%/16.1%, respectively. For women, the prevalence of PTSD/MD was 23.8%/29.0%, 23.9%/28.9%, and 19.7%/27.6%. (Canetti,2010)

In addition to these difficult political and violent situations,  there is a lack of specialized mental health professionals in Palestine who are cable to deal with the increasing number of the traumatized population. For example, in 2001, one survey was conducted by BeirZeit University over 57 institutions providing psycho-social/ mental health in West Bank and Gaza to identify the most pressing needs in the area of psycho-social/ mental health.  Counselors were asked to identify the most significant problems encountered at work and what they considered to be their learning and development. In this study, 707 psycho-social workers were identified and findings revealed that the majority of these psycho-social/ mental health workers are Bachelor- degree holders (92%), mainly in psychology, social sciences or education obtained mostly from local universities with a rate of (73%). Whilst these are relevant initial qualifications for those working in this field, the undergraduate courses that these graduates usually study do not prepare them to work in psycho-social/ mental health care in a full professional capacity, leave alone working with severely traumatized victims. These results draw attention to the lack of well-trained and qualified mental health professionals or counselors to deal with the traumatic clients. Interestingly, all counselors and their directors consider further training to be a crucial need in this study (Giacaman, 2004).

Finally, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education records in the year 2014-2015  , there is no Palestinian higher academic institutions  offering undergraduate or postgraduate degree program in trauma therapy. In order to overcome this problem, and to response to the increasing  demands for psychological and mental health services and interventions for the traumatized people in Palestine, the Faculty of Public Health at Al-Quds University created  a community mental health /track trauma within the community mental health master program by adopting a holistic model of psychological interventions emphasizing, in particular, the cultural aspects of the Palestinian community. This program at Al- Quds University is a pioneer in the aspect that is related to trauma in Palestine. It is an extension of the current community mental health master program and it is created based on the following factors:

  • Tense political situation such as siege, checkpoints, movement restriction, and high stress level in the Palestinian community.   
  • Lack of  well trained mental health professionals who are specialized in trauma field and complex trauma
  • The lack of academic trauma programs that graduated qualified mental health professionals to treat traumatized people at the Palestinian universities