The Institute for Disaster Mental Health awarded second grant to build a network of Palestinian and Israeli psychological first aid practitioners

NEW PALTZ – The Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH) at the State University of New York at New Paltz has been awarded a $93,169 grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to support the Mitigating Conflict via Early Mental Health Interventions Program.

This is the second grant of its kind awarded to the Institute. Last year, with funding from USAID, experts from the IDMH worked with partners in the Middle East to develop materials addressing the short-term mental health needs of Palestinian and Israeli adults, children, caregivers, and helpers. These materials, translated from English into Hebrew, Arabic and Russian, were widely distributed throughout the region. The current program will build on that successful partnership to provide additional assistance to those suffering from stress, violence, and trauma.

According to Dr. James Halpern, institute director and psychology professor at New Paltz, IDMH personnel will once again travel to the Middle East and, for the first time, administer a train-the-trainer program in Psychological First Aid (PFA) for Palestinian and Israeli professionals. According to the World Health Organization, PFA describes a humane, supportive response to a fellow human being who is suffering from a serious crisis event and who may need support. The goal of this initiative, said Halpern, is to equip Palestinians and Israelis not only in how to deliver PFA, but also in how to train others in their communities so that they will be equipped to help their neighbors in times of stress and be less likely to resort to violence.

“By expanding awareness of the effects of disasters and chronic violence, and providing some of the tools necessary for coping and recovery we hope to lessen trauma, promote reconciliation, and prevent future conflict in this troubled region,” Halpern said.

In addition to the PFA train-the-trainer activities, the program will incorporate person-to-person interaction among participants, creating a safe space to build empathy and cooperation.

The Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH) offers education and training in disaster mental health for students, professionals, and paraprofessionals, including conferences and workshops that reflect recent research and best practices. International work has included several projects for the United Nations (UN). IDMH experts have developed training materials for the UN Emergency and Preparedness Teams and for UN mission leaders who are on the front lines of crisis and complex emergencies. The Institute comprises scholars and practitioners dedicated to teaching, research, and service to the community in the area of disaster mental health.