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The trauma of witnessing war, near and far

The last houses of Sderot before Gaza Strip. The town of Sderot is located one kilometer from the Gaza Strip.
Moment Open / Getty Images
The last houses of Sderot before Gaza strip.The town of Sderot is located one kilometer from the Gaza Strip. A "Red Color" alarm system has been implemented to warn citizens of impending rocket attacks. Due to the proximity of Gaza strip, citizens have between 10-15 seconds to reach a shelter after the sounding of the "Red Color" alarm. 30 % of the children of the town have been diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

It has been just over one month since the Israel-Hamas war began, resulting in the deaths of thousands of civilians and a worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The images and reports coming out of this region are dire. Many have been left traumatized from witnessing the atrocities of this war up close and from afar.

Some experts say this war alone will create a generation in trauma. That’s on top of the trauma that’s already been experienced by children in the region. Children impacted by trauma can experience long term side effects and regression in their development.

Humanitarians are not just addressing the physical needs, providing food, water, medical care and shelter, but themental health needs of the children experiencing acute traumatic stress.

Experts say addressing the mental health needs in this region will require a long term strategy and the time to address mental health needs is now.

When a disaster of this scale happens, it can impact a lot of people — and not just those directly affected. Secondary trauma can occur simply by hearing about someone else’s trauma. People working with these traumatized populations are at high risk for this type of trauma, as are those of us a world away. Doom-scrolling can cause numerous negative mental health outcomes and symptoms of secondary trauma, including compassion fatigue.

This can be exacerbated for those who have ties to the region. What's happening now in Israel and Gaza can be a constant reminder of atrocities that have impacted generations of people. For both Israelis and Palestinians, collective trauma, and in some cases, intergenerational trauma,makes breaking the cycles of violence even harder.

Trauma has layers. Trauma is complicated. And trauma ripples. In today’s show, we’re examining all the layers of trauma.

If you need to talk to someone, call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). It’s free, confidential and available 24/7.


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Tess is a senior producer for Connecticut Public news-talk show Where We Live. She enjoys hiking Connecticut's many trails and little peaks, gardening and writing in her seven journals.
Catherine is the Host of Connecticut Public’s morning talk show and podcast, Where We Live. Catherine and the WWL team focus on going beyond the headlines to bring in meaningful conversations that put Connecticut in context.