Gaza isn’t just a physical wreck. The psychological damage is even worse

November 3, 2014 by James S. Gordon. Washington Post
James S. Gordon, a psychiatrist, is the founder and director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine and author of “Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression.”
I’ve worked for 20 years with psychological trauma – during and after the war in Kosovo, after the earthquake in Haiti, with U.S. troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and in Israeli towns like Sderot that have been continually shelled by Hamas for years before, as well as during, this summer’s war. And since 2002, I’ve worked here, in long-beleaguered, isolated Gaza, leading workshops, training local clinicians and leaders and setting up a program of self-care and group support to deal with the population-wide psychological trauma.
In those decades, I’ve never seen psychological devastation this intense.
Houses are as squashed and scattered as paper cups. A water tower is torn up close to the ground like a stalk of corn. Mosques, schools and factories are blasted, useless shells. Olive trees that were almost ready to yield their fruit are reduced to kindling. It goes on, block after block here in Khuzaa, as well as in Beit-Hanoun in the north, Shejaia to the east of Gaza City, and Rafah in the south. Altogether
20,000 homes are destroyed and uninhabitable, 39,000 people are still living in UN shelters, and perhaps 100,000 more are homeless, crowded in with relatives. Building materials promised by the UN and international donors are stalled or unavailable.
But the catastrophe here is not just physical. Upheaval has wrecked lives, severed families and upended routines. “The psychological damage is even greater,” says El Najaar, who is leading some local reconstruction efforts. “And it will take much longer and be far harder to repair.” It’s a tragically common refrain here — from political leaders, homeless women, university officials and my own team of trauma counselors from the Center for Mind-Body Medicine.