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PTSD incidence in Palestinian children rises

Palestine needs more mental health services as an increasing number of children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the continued fighting between Palestine and Israel, IRIN reports.

The Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and Palestinian mental health humanitarians have been combining their expertise in order to combat this growing issue.

"More than half of consultations in Gaza and in Nablus are for children under 18 years old, so far in 2011,"Hélène Thomas, psychological coordinator at MSF-France in Jerusalem told IRIN. Over 50 percent of patients seeking mental health services in the Gaza strip in 2010 were under the age of 12, she told the news source.

MSF has opened more clinics and has trained new staff in order to properly help the Palestinian children.

“Children and adolescents have particular symptoms of psychological distress like bedwetting, nightmares, learning difficulties [reading and speech], concentration and memory problems and therefore academic failure, or even aggressive behaviour,” Thomas told the news outlet.

In 2010 alone, MSF performed 6,099 psychological consultations and took on 702 new patients, compared to 4,912 patients the previous year.

The Palestinian organization Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture (TRC) also uses a unique method of psychotherapy called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) as a means to help children relieve some of the fear and stress they faced while growing up.

As children continue to seek help, MSF hopes that parents will be able to overcome the cultural barriers and start to talk about their feelings as well. One psychiatrist said he typically uses a barrier between him and his female patients as a way to try and get the mothers of children to open up about what they are also experiencing. This, he said, will ultimately help heal the children who have seen so much negativity in their short lives.
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