The Suffering of a People Manifest: The Rising Tide of Suicide in Gaza

Gaza Suicides

By TLB Staff Writer: Ariyana Love

There has been an alarming increase of suicide attempts in the Gaza Strip in response to Israel’s gruesome assault on the Palestinian population this summer. The terrifying trauma and devastating loss, left every man, woman and child with intense feelings of despair and hopelessness.

Many are seen walking the streets, in a stupor, avoiding each other’s gaze or mumbling to themselves. Complaints of poverty fill the air and the memories of Genocide are stuck in the brains of everyone.

Gaza’s medical and police reports reveal there are 30 to 40 suicide attempts each month. For a 1.8 million population, this is an alarming number, which is anticipated to increase.

Dr. Ayman Sahbani head of the reception department at Shifa Medical Complex said they see people eating large doses of medications, poisons such as rat poison and pesticides, cutting themselves, jumping from heights or shooting, burning or hanging. Many of them have been saved at the final moments, while others did not survive. If they survive, they are brought before a psychologist from Gaza’s Community Mental Health Program (G.C.M.H.P.).

Dr. Sahbani explained in a press statement something even more disturbing, “those who attempt suicide are younger groups, and all cases are either minors or under the age of 30.”

One young female had poured gasoline on herself and lit herself on fire. After suffering severe burns, she was transferred to the Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah, and then transferred to the Dar Al Shifa in Gaza City, where she died.

There is a danger to ones health in failed suicide attempts. Acanutod Imad Fayoumy, Head of Internal Medicine in Gaza said, “all cases dealing with large doses of drugs and toxins, if they arrive late to the hospital, due to the influence of poisons on the heart, brain and kidney, may cause them significant health problems in the future.”

Dr. Fayoumy advised parents to follow up with their children and keep all medicines and poisons, out of the reach of their youth, especially medicines used by parents or the chronically ill.

Youth are most susceptible to the “sense of helplessness.” There’s a tremendous need for psychological support in Gaza, which youth is just not getting.

UNICEF reported in September, that 430,000 children are in need of immediate psychological support.

The cost of failing to treat children suffering from PTSD or CPTSD is far too high. We can rebuild a broken bone, but when it comes to rebuilding someone’s psychological integrity, this is something that the people in the West and the Israelis don’t understand. They’re creating psychological damage for these kids that will be with them for the rest of their lives and will be carried through the generations.

Psychologist, Dr. Lena Geha a trauma expert and member of the Palestinian Trauma Center recently announced in a press release, “There is nowhere near a sufficient amount of mental health hospitals in Gaza to meet the growing demand of those previously, let alone currently rapidly traumatized. That is even when they do in fact courageously overcome mental health stigma to seek psychological support.” She also stated, “Palestinian children are constantly traumatized, and Israel’s brutal policies toward Palestinians are the reason this is the case.”

Dr. Geha continues, “Palestinian children in Gaza are exposed to more violence in their lifetime than any other people, any other children, anywhere in the world.

A Palestinian child born in the year 2000, who has managed to survive, has lived through the Second Intifada, the war in 2006, and the bombardment of Gaza in 2008, 2012, and now, 2014.  That’s fourteen years of Israeli air strikes, fourteen years of family and friends being killed, one by one, or sometimes 25 at a time, and fourteen years of constant trauma inducing horrors, ranging from daily realities of the blockade and occupation, to seemingly bi-annual outbursts of carnage.”

A 2009 study from Dr. Abdul Aziz Thabet, and others from the Gaza Mental Health Community Program, found that 98.3 percent of children from Gaza show signs of PTSD. It’s logical to say that number is at 100% today. There isn’t a single Palestinian in Gaza that wasn’t traumatized by the gross Israeli war crimes of this summer.

Gaza’s Community Mental Health Program (G.C.M.H.P.) provides treatment for the cyclical traumas of Gaza’s society, which has been subjected to three wars in the past six years alone. It has also, from its founding, trained Gaza’s future mental-health practitioners. In this summer’s assault, the Director of G.C.M.H.P., Yasser Abu Jamei was deliberately targeted by the Israeli Government, loosing a devastating, 29 people of his immediate family in one air strike  to his 3-story home.

The main reasons Gaza youth express for giving up on life are family problems, unemployment, or academic issues. Unemployment is the highest it’s ever been in Gaza. Extreme poverty combined with the shame of relying on foreign food aid and no hope or means to plan for the future is too much for youngsters to bear.

Before this summer’s assault, 75% of Gaza was relying on humanitarian aid to survive. After the assault, UN reported that almost everyone in Gaza is now relying on foreign aid. Aid, which Israel and Egypt control at the Rafah Boarder.

Dr. Sami Owaida, a psychologist at G.C.M.H.P. stressed that PTSD and psychological stress due to the worsening economic situation and the lack of jobs, is turning some people to practicing violence with others as a catharsis of anger, or to attempting suicide as an escape from reality.

He held the Israeli occupation responsible for what is happening, saying that the occupation in various ways and means is trying to create a helpless generation that can not do anything but try to escape.

Another psychologist from G.C.M.H.P., Samir Zaqout said the majority of attempted suicides are females, stating that the females in Palestinian society are under greater pressure from parents and must endure societal constraints. Dr. Zaqout goes on to say, that this statistic is not strange given the tragic reality. And we are seeing a rise in prostitution, since life has lost it’s value and a large number of people have not enough money to eat. She also said, “There is alienation within the family unit, due to a great need for a shift in cultural awareness.”

Sheikh Abdul Bari, a lecturer at the Faculty of Islamic Call, said that suicide is not in any way acceptable, whether it is social, economic or other reasons, and that “Allah has forbidden killing oneself. ”

Dr Jennifer Leaning, Director, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University said, “in all studies of disaster and in war crisis, the fundamental feature that protects the children from serious psychological stress is “their certainty and their confidence that their parents or grandparents will be able to protect them and hold them. If they can get the sense that the parent is OK, then they will be able to be ok in the long-term. But in Gaza, there is a deliberate and total destruction of the structures for psychological stability of the parents, and grandparents are also suffering greatly. The ongoing Israeli violence and lingering occupation keeps uncertainty for any normal future for Gaza. With Gaza, there is an extraordinary series of acute stress on top of chronic stress.”

Journalist, Mohammed Matter recalls his experience of the Israeli assaults on Gaza

“I still remember how people used to say good bye instead of good night before they go to sleep, I remember my sister who used to smuggle into my room because she was too scared to stay in hers alone. I remember when I heard the news about the death of my cousin and then the death of my second cousin and then the death of my third cousin and then the death of my neighbor and then the death of my best friend and then the death of my first girl friend ever and then the death of another friend and then the death of another neighbor; it was a cycle that has never ended and with every loss I cried, my family cried, my friends cried and Gaza cried.”

And I cry too, for the inhumane suffering of Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza. Palestinians are not caged animals, but caged human beings.


30 attempt suicide every month in the Gaza Strip

Suicide attempts girls and youth in Gaza .. transient condition or pervasive phenomenon

30 attempt suicide every month in the Gaza Strip

About the author:

Arianna-LoveAriyana Love: I have a mission to bring a voice to, and put a face on, the reality of the suffering of the citizens of the Middle East. Not what you see on The Mainstream Media, or what is heralded by Western Governments, but reality as reported by journalists who live and see this deadly injustice daily. This will be accomplished via a new website under construction “The Middle East Rising”, as well as live broadcasting via The Liberty Beacon Radio network,  brought to you by The Liberty Beacon project… The truth must be told!

3 Comments on The Suffering of a People Manifest: The Rising Tide of Suicide in Gaza

  1. That was an excellent, well written, and important article. It brought me to a paper I have never heard of. And it matches the experience a young woman from Gaza whom I had the privilege to speak with the other night. This is hard stuff to look at but it is extremely important, because collective traumas like these can be perpetuated across generations. And they can fuel violence in the future.

    Thanks to the editor for running this material and to the author for writing it.

  2. The sad part of this is this a major aim of the blockade and the war. Both were done to demoralize the people in Gaza so either they will give up or try to leave. Unfortunately on those that have lost too much it is working. How can we help? We need to show these young people that the world can now see them and there are people all over the world supporting them an working to educate others to force changes and make Israel lose support.

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