Generation of children in Gaza on the brink of a mental health crisis
Save the Children warns fresh violence may destroy last vestiges of resilience
Monday, June 4
Feelings of depression, hyperactivity, a preference for being alone, and aggression were reported by 95 percent of children in Gaza, new research released by Save the Children has shown.
The combination of these symptoms in unison is consistent with deep psychological distress, with more than 96 percent of their caregivers also saying they recognised all four groups of symptoms in their sons, daughters or grandchildren.
The survey of 150 caregivers and 150 children living in Gaza was conducted before the recent wave of protests in which more than 100 people – including 14 children – were killed in six weeks by Israeli forces.
The findings show that children in Gaza were already showing worrying signs of distress including nightmares, which were experienced by 63 percent, as well as difficulties sleeping, reported by 68 percent.
For children, the threat of conflict, the fear of bombs, and the constant insecurity caused by the unstable political situation were the biggest sources of stress, with 60 percent of caregivers saying it was taking a toll. Additionally, aircraft sounds were cited as the single biggest source of fear in 78 percent of children.
“I have many horrible nightmares, and a constant feeling of fear that I may be targeted with a bomb or shelled, or injured or killed,” said Samar*, a 15-year-old girl from Gaza who has lived through three wars, remembers nothing but life under blockade and who recently attended the March of Return protests.
“This feeling has gripped me and many other children as well. There are many children who have been psychologically damaged by their fear - they are terrified, and this has greatly affected their behaviour.”
Save the Children is deeply concerned that the increasing violence children are experiencing, and the growing sense of uncertainty will push their resilience to breaking point.
“When I was at the March and saw people injured I was very upset. I would cry when I saw innocent children who committed no crime get injured and I cried when I saw dead children. It was heart-breaking and painful. I am still sad - they were just children and I have seen them (injured) - it is a really painful feeling.”
Despite the huge pressures many children are facing, the research found that most were exhibiting signs of resilience. More than 80 percent said they could speak to family and friends about their problems and 90 percent said they felt supported by their parents.