IDMH leads trip to Israeli university for international disaster preparedness

IDMH Ben Gurion 3eidtThe Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH) at SUNY New Paltz organized a trip for eight graduate students to Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev in Beersheba, Israel. The purpose of this visit was to promote interaction between New Paltz and Israeli students and to offer new international perspectives on disaster preparedness, response, recovery and healing.


“Opportunities such as this are the very reason I chose to attend SUNY New Paltz for graduate school.” – Lisa Mannino ‘16g (Mental Health Counseling)


The program was hosted by Ben-Gurion University’s Community Action Program and its Spitzer Department of Social Work, and marked the seventh year of cooperation between BGU and the College. The program is administered at New Paltz by the Center for International Programs’ Study Abroad Office.

“Conditions in Israel and its region are conducive to episodes of violence and frequent mental health emergencies, while the US has some of the most extreme weather in the world,” said IDMH Director James Halpern. “Bringing together Israeli and American graduate students to engage in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery enables both groups to gain a broader and richer understanding of different types of crises and how to provide the most effective assistance in an ever-changing world.”

As part of the trip New Paltz students visited major Israeli landmarks, including the Holocaust Museum, Jerusalem Old City, Masada and a number of communities along the Gaza border, where many residents have experienced the trauma of regular violence. The students also had opportunities to speak with agency heads and officials responsible for social work and mental health services in the western Negev.

“Studying side-by-side with Israeli graduate students, we were able to discuss the differences between our countries and our lives, and we discovered that we really have so much in common,” said Lisa Mannino ’15 (Psychology) ‘16g (Mental Health Counseling). “It was an opportunity to not just learn about multiculturalism, but to live it. In Otef-Gaza, we met with and spoke to people who live under the constant the threat of attack every single day, yet they live meaningful lives and remain full of hope. This was a first-hand lesson in resiliency and the human spirit, things we hear about so often in our counseling classes, and I personally found that to be profoundly moving.”

About the Institute of Disaster Mental Health
IDMH is a national leader in offering education and training in disaster mental health for students, professionals and paraprofessionals. The Institute comprises scholars and practitioners dedicated to teaching, research, and service to the community in the area of disaster mental health.

The SUNY-BGU partnership is made possible by a memorandum of understanding signed by New Paltz President Donald P. Christian and BGU President Rivka Carmi. More information about the Institute for Disaster Mental Health at SUNY New Paltz is available online.