Journaling war: How one Gaza student coped with trauma

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Today, much than 90% of nan enclave’s organization has been driven from their homes.

In Cairo, Shurrab nary longer lives successful a threat zone, but she still finds it difficult to region herself from thoughts of nan UNHCR shelter because her parents, whom she’s desperately trying to get out, are still successful Gaza.

“My family is still nether nan tent. I still can’t flight it,” she said. “And there’s portion of maine that feels nan guilt that I person entree to water, electricity, lights, bathrooms.” 

‘The trauma is persisting’

While war’s toll connected intelligence wellness has go much researched since PTSD — station traumatic accent upset — was coined successful nan 1980s aft veterans’ experiences from nan Vietnam War, experts opportunity that vulnerability to prolonged and ongoing conflict poses chopped intelligence wellness challenges.

Scarred by ongoing violence, subject occupation, onshore seizures, and restrictions connected their movements, Palestinian youths and young adults —  some successful Gaza and nan occupied West Bank —  are particularly susceptible to important intelligence trauma.

“It’s 1 of nan places successful nan world pinch nan highest rates of psychological distress,” Dr. Audrey McMahon, a psychiatrist for Doctors without Borders, said successful a telephone question and reply from eastbound Jerusalem. 

Last year, an in-depth World Bank study recovered that 71% of nan big organization successful Gaza exhibited symptoms accordant pinch depression. In 2022, complete half of Gazan children expressed termination ideation, according to a Save nan Children study. A further 80% of participants reported affectional distress.

“When you person a organization of children that people truthful precocious for psychological distress and for depression. The mobility is not what’s incorrect pinch these children? But what’s incorrect pinch nan context? Because this isn’t normal,” McMahon said, referring to nan information and her intelligence wellness activity visits successful Gaza.

Shurrab prepares blank journals up of a shop she hosted connected really to face symptom done creation successful Cairo. 
Shurrab prepares blank journals up of a shop she hosted connected really to face symptom done creation successful Cairo. NBC News

Yara Asi, nan author of “How War Kills: The Overlooked Threats to Our Health,” said galore events successful Gaza undoubtedly suffice arsenic being “highly traumatic,” including witnessing mangled bodies and being displaced from one’s home. But erstwhile specified experiences are coupled pinch a “lack of immoderate conception of erstwhile this will end,” and nary avenues for justice, it exacerbates nan trauma, Asi added.

“We request to extremity looking astatine trauma conscionable arsenic nan arena itself,” she said. “The trauma is persisting. If there’s nary accountability, that successful itself is continued trauma, moreover if nan kid lives and is resettled successful Egypt.”

A 2020 study of pre-teen and teenage students successful Gaza recovered much than half of participants fresh nan test criteria for PTSD.

But Dr. Samah Jabr, a longtime clinical psychiatrist who chairs intelligence wellness services astatine nan Palestinian Health Ministry successful Ramallah, said Western intelligence wellness diagnoses neglect to encompass nan effect of ongoing “oppression.”

“PTSD tin amended picture nan acquisition of a soldier,” she said. “That’s not nan business of Palestinians; they are fought continuously successful their homeland. So nan Palestinian acquisition is colonial, historic, collective, cumulative and transverse generational. There is nary ‘P’ — location is nary ‘post’ successful our PTSD,” she added. 

Shurrab talks to different Palestinians who fled nan warfare astir really to heal done journaling astatine her shop successful Cairo.Shurrab talks to different Palestinians who fled nan warfare astir really to heal done journaling astatine her shop successful Cairo.NBC News

‘Traumas are not thing to avoid’

Surviving 7 wars successful nan past 2 decades, Shurrab knows these challenges well. It’s why she’s passionate astir intelligence wellness and creation therapy arsenic a intends to heal. Since arriving successful Cairo, she’s hosted 10 journaling sessions attended by Palestinians who person fled nan war, arsenic good arsenic Egyptians, and hopes to prosecute studies successful creative-driven therapy methods.

In caller years, journaling and expressive writing person go a much researched instrumentality to alleviate intelligence wellness conditions specified arsenic PTSD, and build resilience amid persistent symptom and loss.

Before she fled Gaza, Shurrab vowed to only capable her diary’s past page if she survived nan war. 

The page yet featured anguished goodbyes and open-ended questions for illustration “What will hap to my parents?” and “Where americium I going?” 

“Questions I don’t person answers to until now,” she said, reflecting connected nan past page of her Gaza journal. 

But contempt nan layers of uncertainty coursing done her journal, Shurrab and her diary are resolutely hopeful.

“Traumas are not thing to avoid,” she said, adding, “They are nan worldly that build, make america fuller and make america much knowledgeable and afloat of life.”

Yasmine Salam

Yasmine Salam is an subordinate shaper pinch nan NBC News Investigative Unit. Previously she worked successful nan London Bureau, covering world stories.

Gabe Joselow

Gabe Joselow is simply a shaper astatine NBC News.

Lara Fernandez

Lara Fernandez is documentary video shaper for NBC News.

Charlene Gubash