Inaugural meeting of the UK - Palestine Mental Health Network

Pollard, R., 2014. Inaugural meeting of the UK - Palestine Mental Health Network. Reformulation, Summer, p.51.


This meeting, held in London on 2nd April at The Guild, was called to set up a network to foster more links between mental health workers in the UK and Palestine so that they can support and learn from each other, and to encourage greater awareness of the political and social conditions that adversely affect mental health in Palestine. The meeting was addressed by Dr Mohammed Altawil, Director of the Palestine Trauma Centre, (www. ptcuk.org/) that provides psychological and social support to children and families in Gaza, Professor Jeff Halper, Director of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, and Martin Kemp a psychotherapist and coauthor of an article in Therapy Today that discussed the psychological impact of military occupation in Palestine.

The meeting was well attended. Sixty people were present, the majority psychotherapists but including a number of psychiatrists and psychologists and others active in the fi eld of mental health. It included a number already working with Palestinian mental health workers and institutions, some with links to organizations such as Medical Aid for Palestine, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Jews for Justice for Palestinians. The speakers stressed that one of the reasons for establishing the network was Britain’s unique historic responsibility for the confl icts in the region and present responsibility, as part of the international community, for the collective failure to ensure a settlement based on relationships of equality and mutual respect between Israelis and Palestinians.

Contributions from the fl oor were invited to discuss what the remit of the network should be: there were suggestions with regard to training and assistance that could be offered to mental health workers in Palestine from some speakers whilst others cautioned that in such a fraught political context where whole communities are traumatized, counselling and other psychological interventions have limited purchase. Several spoke of the value of solidarity visits by psychotherapists living and working in the UK to learn about mental health issues in Palestine and create cross- cultural links. Others spoke of their concern for the ongoing trauma suffered by children, in particular, and the likely effects on their lives and welfare in the future.

Other speakers were more overtly political in tone, stressing the apartheid nature of the divide between Israelis and Palestinians and the importance of supporting the trade and academic boycotts of Israel as a way to bring pressure on the Israeli government, and to create conditions for reframing relationships between the two communities. It was also recognised that the issue of Palestine and Israel can arouse very strong feelings, virulent disagreements and fi erce debate but that this should not deter psychotherapists from raising these issues with their colleagues and in their organizations.

For further information about the network contact:

ukpalmhn@gmail.com

Full Reference

Pollard, R., 2014. Inaugural meeting of the UK - Palestine Mental Health Network. Reformulation, Summer, p.51.

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