How a new initiative is helping Israeli children cope with the trauma of war

The war between Israel and Hamas has left many Israeli children in a state of emotional distress. A new initiative by Goshen and the Israeli Pediatric Association aims to provide them with mental health support and guidance.

According to a study conducted by Goshen, an organization promoting community child health and wellbeing, and the Israeli Pediatric Association, 84% of Israeli children overall are suffering from emotional distress due to the war. The figure increases to 93% when dealing with children directly affected by the Hamas massacres of October 7 and the ensuing war, with 69% of them suffering from anxiety.

The study also found that 40% of parents are feeling stressed and anxious, but only 14% of them have sought help for their or their children’s mental health. The survey included a representative group of 493 parents of children from birth to age 12 from around the country.

The experts who conducted the survey say its results point to the importance of training pediatricians to better identify and address issues related to children’s mental health.

The role of pediatricians in providing mental health first aid

One of the goals of the new initiative by Goshen and the Israeli Pediatric Association is to equip pediatricians with the skills and tools to offer mental health first aid to children and their families. The initiative includes online courses, webinars, and workshops for pediatricians, as well as a hotline for consultation and referral.

Dr. Shai Padeh, the president of the Israeli Pediatric Association, said that pediatricians are in a unique position to help children cope with the trauma of war, as they are often the first and most trusted point of contact for families.

“Pediatricians can play a key role in detecting signs of emotional distress, providing support and guidance, and referring children to specialized services when needed,” he said.

The benefits of community-based child health and wellbeing

Another aspect of the new initiative is to promote community-based child health and wellbeing, which involves engaging parents, teachers, and other professionals in supporting children’s mental and physical development.

Dr. Michal Hemmo-Lotem, the founder and chairperson of Goshen, said that community-based child health and wellbeing is especially relevant in times of crisis, as it helps create a sense of belonging and resilience among children and families.

“Goshen’s vision is to create a network of professionals and communities that work together to ensure that every child in Israel grows up healthy, happy, and confident,” she said.

The challenges and opportunities of the post-war period

The new initiative by Goshen and the Israeli Pediatric Association is expected to reach thousands of children and families across Israel, and to provide them with the emotional support they need to heal from the war.

However, the initiative also faces some challenges, such as the lack of awareness and stigma around mental health issues, the shortage of mental health professionals and services, and the uncertainty and instability of the security situation.

The experts behind the initiative hope that the post-war period will also offer some opportunities for positive change, such as increasing the public and governmental recognition of the importance of children’s mental health, and fostering a culture of dialogue and cooperation among different sectors and communities.

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