NEW PALTZ – The Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH) at SUNY New Paltz is coordinating a program with helping professionals in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza that aims to address the mental health needs of Israeli and Palestinian children and families via development and distribution of psychoeducational materials.
“Families First” is designed to foster a partnership among helpers from these regions, to expand awareness of the effects of disasters and chronic violence, and to provide some of the tools necessary for coping and recovery. “While our Palestinian and Israeli colleagues are clearly the experts on what members of their communities need, IDMH can bring expertise in best practices for treating trauma,” said James Halpern, Project Director and Director of the IDMH. “Families First” is funded by a Managing and Mitigating Conflict Fixed Obligation Grant awarded to the IDMH by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and is supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) in West Bank and Gaza.
Working in cooperation with IDMH experts, Palestinian and Israeli health and social service professionals, community organizers, school counselors, and others participating in the “Families First” program have begun to discuss how to address the universal impact of conflict. On January 14, 2012, IDMH personnel returned from Israel, where they held meetings, offered presentations on evidence-based practices, and coordinated planning sessions with core members of the Palestinian and Israeli constituencies, WHO and USAID. Participants will return in May 2012 to co-author culturally appropriate psychoeducational materials in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, which will be disseminated throughout Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel. “By expanding awareness of the effects of disasters and chronic violence, we hope to provide some of the tools necessary for coping and recovery,” said Dr. Halpern. “Doing so, we believe, may help to mitigate trauma, promote reconciliation, and prevent future conflict in this troubled region.”