World Mental Health Day

October 10, 2021

Commemorating the United Nation’s World Mental Health Day, Indiana Center for Middle East Peace will be hosting our friend, Lucas Zoughbi, son of Zoughbi and Elaine Zoughbi, from Bethlehem, and a PhD student in Psychology at Michigan State University specializing in psychological trauma of Palestinian children, women, and political prisoners, this Thursday, October 14, Plymouth Congregational Church, downtown Fort Wayne, 6:30pm.

The United Nations annually sets aside October 10 as World Mental Health Day. And while the COVID pandemic, and especially the crazy obstinacy and obfuscations of the Religious and Political Right, have exacerbated the stressors in our individual and communal lives, even prior to COVID, the mental health statistics in our country were alarming.

And of course, we’re not alone with these disturbing patterns. Every part of the world has been touched, including our friends in Palestine.

Israel’s ongoing Nakba, a century-in-the-planning-and-execution colonial settler, ethnic cleansing project continues to take a toll. Dehumanization, unemployment, imprisonment including child imprisonment, torture, shootings, house
demolitions, land confiscation, lack of mobility, family displacement, and more impact Palestinian mental health. Yet
within the West Bank and Gaza, mental health resources are sparse. Gaza has only one psychiatrist, and in the West
Bank, there are less than 15 community health clinics and practicing psychiatrists within the entire public health system, and only one psychiatric hospital, which is in Bethlehem.

When asked about the presence of PTSD in the occupied Palestinian Territories, Zoughbi Zoughbi, Lucas’s father and founding Executive Director of the Wi’am Conflict Resolution and Transformation Center in Bethlehem answers, “There is no ‘Post’ in our PTSD, the ‘P’ stands for ‘Present’; we have Present Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

And when I’ve talked with Iyad Burnat, leader of the Bil’in Resistance and Bassem Tamimi, leader of the resistance movement in Nabi Saleh, both of which are noted for children, youth, and women leadership, they both point to university studies that show that children and youth who participate, who often lead, demonstrations, protests, and
resistance actions are overall more mentally healthy and well-adjusted than those who don’t. We at ICMEP continue to stand in solidarity alongside other Jewish, Christian, and Muslim voices of conscience
with our friends in Palestine.

And in the US, the statistics are distressing – statistics gleaned from NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), MHA (Mental Health America), and AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention):

  • 1 in 5 US adults experience mental illness annually (51.5 million people);
  • 1 in 6 US youth, ages 6-17, experience a mental health disorder annually (7.7 million people);
  • 60% of youth with major depression did not receive any mental health treatment
  • In the US, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death, and second leading cause of death among ages 10-34;
  • The overall suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 35% since 1999;
  • 46% of people who die by suicide had a diagnosed mental health condition;
  • 90% of people who die by suicide had shown symptoms of a mental health condition, according to psychological
    autopsies (interviews with family, friends and medical professionals)
  • Half of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24.
  • The most common mental illnesses in the U.S. are anxiety disorders, affecting 40 million adults, a fifth of the
  • Depression and anxiety disorders cost the US economy about $200 billion annually, and the global economy about $1 trillion annually;
  • The average delay between onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years;
  • About 3 in 5 people with a history of mental illness do not receive mental health treatment while incarcerated in
    state and federal prisons; less than half of people with a history of mental illness receive treatment while held in local jails;
  • At least 8.5 million people in the U.S. provide care to an adult with a mental or emotional health issue.

Each one of us, each person who you see on the street, in the store, in church, the parents of your kids’ schoolmates, your neighbors, and every other person in your community and on the planet, carries around inside them a whole universe – a family history that has shaped them, a host of needs and joys and wounds and dreams most of which you will never know. One thing we do know, however: we want our lives to have been meaningful, we all want to matter.

It is not enough for our country’s mental health delivery to be charity-based. We owe it to our own mental health and to the health of our children, our families, our communities, our nation, our species to invest ourselves, our time, money, and energy, in structures of compassion, reconciliation, and transformation, in all institutions of society – education, healthcare, criminal justice system, business and industry, labor, faith groups, and social service organizations.

How can you in very practical ways devote yourself to your own mental and spiritual health and give support to such efforts of compassion and healing in your community?

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