Monday, July 7, 2008

Launching research on mental health impacts of occupation

I'm back in Palestine for the second summer! I feel so incredibly lucky to work again with PMRS. While writing up the research I did last summer, I had the opportunity to reflect on the strength, hospitality and ingenuity of PMRS, as well as their awesome spirit to, in the face of continual assaults of the occupation, persist in promoting human rights, justice, empowerment & engagement in civil society.

This summer, I will focus on working with PMRS as a research partner to examine the relationship between the violence of the occupation and family violence, mental health and well-being. Most importantly, I will attempt to understand more the potential for resilience; factors that may help people and families to overcome the trauma of war and occupation. To this end, we will look at family cohesion, individual problem solving, and community capacity. I arrived to PMRS ready to begin work, and have an awesome research team who have translated all the materials, and are facilitating focus groups and helping to coordinate the collection of quantitative data.

We began the field work this week in Biddo, a town I visited last summer, a place that's landscape is carved up by the wall, settlements,and Israeli only roads. The clinic graciously hosted us, and recruited participants for both the surveys and the focus groups.

It was a powerful morning, with both a sense of accomplishment for beginning, and a sadness that comes with collecting and analyzing data on trauma and pain. Below is a picture of the new research team after finishing the first focus group.
I feel like this year I've come with a sharper focus, one that both seeks a greater understanding of the conditions here but that also searches to discover what people, families and communities do to mobilize internal and external resources. This focus is helping me to view Palestine more holistically, as a society that, in addition to a history of pain, injustice and struggle, also has a powerful history of growth, dignity, education and joy.

“Palestinian survival abilities and resiliency have been learned over a period of almost 100 years of trauma and conflict, not only recently, and have been handed down from generation to generation (R. Giacaman, 2005).”

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