Dr. Samah Jabr in her office

This article is very interesting, although the headline is misleading. Samah Jabr, chair of the mental health unit at the Palestinian Ministry of Health is not dismissing the fact that many Palestinians are suffering from symptoms of depression and PTSD. She is putting the emphasis on the conditions in which Palestinians live their daily lives, rather than the psyche of the individual, as the root cause of most mental health problems. She distinguishes between the psychological reactions of a person living in safety and remembering or imagining a traumatic experience, versus Palestinians for whom trauma is ongoing. A 2005 article in the UK medical journal “The Lancet,” called “Protecting the mental health of Gaza’s inhabitants,” noted that “psychiatrists in [Palestine] have actually found fewer classic symptoms of rage and frustration related to the long and ongoing conflict, calling it a ‘pre-traumatic, traumatic, and post-traumatic’ situation. – Deborah

Palestine’s head of mental health services says PTSD is a western concept

By Olivia Goldhill, Quartz

Palestine has some of the highest rates of mental illness in the world. A quarter of Palestinian adolescents have made suicide attempts; about 23.2% have post-traumatic stress disorder (according to a survey of 1,369 over three years) compared to around 6-9% in the US; and the Palestinian territories have by far the highest levels of depression in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Samah Jabr, chair of the mental health unit at the Palestinian Ministry of Health and one of just 32 psychiatrists in the Palestinian territories, doubts those statistics.

“I question the methodology. I think they’re measuring social psychological pain and social suffering, and they’re saying this is depression,” she says. “What is sick, the context or the person? In Palestine, we see many people whose symptoms—unusual emotional reaction or a behaviors—are a normal reaction to a pathogenic context.” There are many people in Palestine who are suffering. But Western-developed tools for measuring depression, such as the Beck inventory, do not tend to distinguish between justified misery and clinical depression.

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