Israeli teens displaced by war face mental health struggles and substance abuse: report

The report said that teen evacuees from the north consume twice as many drugs and alcohol as evacuees from the south.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

Drug and alcohol use is surging among Israeli teens forced by war to evacuate their homes, according to a report released on Thursday.

“Among the teenagers and young people from the evacuees of the northern settlements, whom Elam met during the last six months, the deterioration is evident both in their emotional state and especially in their risky behaviors,” said the report, issued by the Elam Association.

The organization works with and advocates for at-risk teens.

“These phenomena are manifested in the form of loitering, drug use and participation in unsupervised parties and more. Although at the starting point, youth from the north were not exposed to the direct traumas faced by youth from the south, in the absence of a comprehensive response similar to that received by youth from the south, Elam workers and volunteers see the deterioration on the ground and expect it to only get worse,” the report said.

Around 250,000 Israelis from communities near the Gaza and Lebanese borders have been displaced from their homes since October 7, living in subsidized hotels or staying with relatives.

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The report said that teen evacuees from the north consume twice as much drugs and alcohol as evacuees from the south.

It also noted that 22% of teens from the north participated in unsupervised parties, compared to five percent from the southern evacuees.

In addition, one in four teens suffer from depression and anxiety and 50% are contending with continuous loneliness.

Since October 7, approximately 5,000 teenagers received assistance in Elam’s digital chat, a two-fold jump in requests, compared to a normal year. Elam’s mental support system received 2,504 inquiries, a 58% increase.

“The Elam report reflects the current situation regarding risky behaviors of teenagers in Israel. The picture of the situation indicates a worsening of the situation of teenagers evacuated from the northern region,” Elam’s chairman, Rabbi Shai Piron.

“The State of Israel has not yet established a regulated system to care for the children of the north and the prices will be heavy, they will accompany us for many years. A comprehensive national plan is also required in relation to the rest of the youth in Israel. Elam will continue to accompany youth, support them, and help them deal with the difficult crisis.”

Residents of Gaza-area communities are already gradually returning to their homes.

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But Hezbollah leaders have suggested that they will continue to fire rockets to prevent Israelis from returning to their northern homes. Israeli officials have been calling for Hezbollah to be disarmed and removed from Southern Lebanon in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

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