Israel Grapples with Unprecedented Mental Health Crisis Following Recent Trauma


Psychiatry experts in Israel are now raising a red flag that the country is currently experiencing its most severe mental health crisis since its inception, following recent traumatic events.

The already deficient mental health system has been inundated with an unprecedented wave of distress calls leading to months long waiting list.

This trauma particularly resulting from the October 7 killings has triggered a significant rise in mental health cases with one in three people who are directly or indirectly affected by the wars might develop posttraumatic disorders over the next several months.

Israel’s Distress Hotlines Flooded, ERAN Responds

The current level of over 100,000 calls to ERAN’s distress hotlines, established for support purposes, is unheard of since its inception.

Families and friends of kidnapped victims, injured victims or those whose loved ones have died are seeking assistance thereby necessitating urgent need for mental healthcare.

HMOs Struggle to Cope

Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO) in Israel which are critical parts of the healthcare system have seen sharp rises in mental health inquiries.

For instance, Clalit Health Services has reported increases in psychiatric drug usage by 25 percent, anxiety related cases by 52 percent and post trauma diagnoses by 45 percent.

Clalit Health Services Takes Proactive Measures

In response to the rising mental health crisis in Israel, Clalit Health Services which represents more than half of the country’s population has taken steps towards expanding its mental health system.

A spokesperson stated that there was integration of therapist into mental health especially where wait times were longer such as peripheral areas.

Furthermore, Clalit launched Israel’s inaugural resilience coach training programs designed to increase the number of professionals capable of delivering psychological help.

The Resilience Coach Program

The resilience coach program seeks to train individuals with bachelor’s degree in psychology and social work; clinical year medical students; psychology interns; expressive/creative therapists without prior experience in mental health issues.

These professionals will provide symptom-focused support, prevention skills and make referrals for mental health treatment whenever is required.

Trainees are absorbed into Clalit’s mental health system from the very first day of training on a part time to full time basis.

Eli Cohen, CEO, Clalit stressed on the need for urgent and quick actions by stating, “We are proactive and taking fast steps in view of the increasing number of mental health inquiries.

This initiative will rapidly and effectively increase our responsiveness to present and future challenges while adhering to best professional standards.”

Crisis Intervention Initiatives

Several new initiatives have been developed at the Shalvata Mental Health Center affiliated with Clalit by its director Shlomo Mendlovic in order to address urgent cases as well as minimize waiting times.

Among them are crisis intervention teams for youth that offer online therapy to children and adolescents in crisis.

The other is Crisis Intervention service which provides short sessions of focused online interventions so as to minimize unnecessary waiting periods.

According to Sidlik Alon, Sigal (2014), prompt intervention especially among children can deter the development of severe mental disorders later in life.

The Crisis Intervention service is working with professional treatment teams where children and adolescents in crises are provided with fast online responses offered once or twice a week for 3-10 sessions.

Geha Mental Health Center’s “Olympia” Center

Last month, a new trauma and crisis treatment center named Olympia Center was opened in Geha Mental Health Center which is part of the Clalit group.

It is an elaborate facility with different groups offering trauma-focused interventions including cognitive-behavioral therapy, trauma-focused group therapy, as well as cutting edge neurofeedback and virtual reality-based treatments.

The Centre is designed to cater for individuals who have been displaced from affected areas by giving them a quick and professional therapeutic response.

Prof. Gil Zaltzman, director of Geha Mental Health Center, emphasized the importance of immediate therapeutic response when he claimed “We are observing many victims indicating the need for an immediate therapeutic response…”

Research has shown that most people exposed to this kind of distress will have recovered from symptoms like Acute Stress Reaction (ARS).

But there are some cases warrants which demand professional assistance towards preventing chronic long-term posttraumatic stress syndrome and this intervention shall be provided at our new Centre.

In conclusion, to combat this unprecedented mental health crisis in Israel, Clalit Health Services and its affiliates are taking proactive steps to increase availability of psychiatric services, build capacity for resilience coaches and initiate crisis intervention programs.

The key objectives are tackling emergency cases as they arise, shortening queues at clinics and ensuring provision of rapid effective psychological help to those affected by recent traumatic events.

Although these moves face tremendous challenges, they give hope for a relatively swift recovery to normalcy by those who were affected by the crisis.

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