Suicide rate in Israel up following Hamas atrocities

Professionals begged the Knesset Health Committee for more money to open additional treatment centers and provide continuum of care to help Hamas’ victims.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Professional in the fields of mental health and the treatment of sexual assault begged for more money in the Knesset Health Committee Monday in order to help those whom Hamas sexually abused and raped on October 7, as the suicide rate among these victims is particularly high.

“Do you know how many people have committed suicide since October 7?” said Dr. Tzvia Seligman, director of the Lotem Center for the Treatment of Victims of Sexual Assault at Ichilov Hospital. “Many people are unusually suicidal. We know there is a lot of suicide. We are [also] treating patients from [the] Nova [dance festival] who lay for hours and heard the sexual assaults while identifying with them and trying to save their lives. We have 200 people on our waiting list; the wait time is two years.”

Seligman begged for more money to combat the trend by giving all the victims – both men and women – the therapy they need, including those in the “second circle,” who were traumatized even without being assaulted themselves.

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“For years, I’ve been treating trauma, and I’ve never felt what I feel now,” she attested. “We have no budgets, and we need to open more treatment centers, and the crucial thing is a treatment continuum. People need to receive treatment through the system, not just from private individuals.”

Others who belong to the second circle include soldiers, police officers and Zaka volunteers who found those murdered after being sexually assaulted in the most violent manner, as well as those working in the Institute for Forensic Medicine who had to examine the bodies, and the social workers who have been helping all of these people “decompress” after each shift.

In other words, the list of those needing who could need help due to what they experienced, possibly even years from now as many repress what they had undergone, is long.

The shortage of therapists and treatment centers was mentioned by many of the professionals. Others stressed that even among the existing therapists there were not enough who had the required experience and knowledge to treat such a terrible trauma, so budgets for crucial professional training was required as well.

Health Committee chairman MK Yoni Mashriki (Shas) said, ““The attack revealed the evil and diabolical depths of the Hamas terrorists that shocked and horrified anyone who has been exposed to them. We must make sure that the survivors are given adequate, exhaustive care and an appropriate follow-up.”

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He emphasized the need for a written, budgeted and integrated procedure for the treatment of victims of such a mass event.

Among the government personnel’s responses to the requests for aid, Sela’it Shachar-Hochman, director of the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry’s department for the treatment of sexual victims, said that immediately after the Hamas attack, NIS4 million had been allocated for their treatment, and that approximately 80 treatment centers are being operated throughout the country.

Dr. Zohar Sahar, director of the Department for the Treatment of Sexual Assault at the Ministry of Health, replied that the government ministries are working in coordination and are pooling resources to treat all victims of the massive terror attack, including sexual victims.

While saying that the ministry’s mental health department was allocated NIS 2 billion to help Hamas victims, she did not specify how much of it was dedicated to sexual assault survivors, only saying that it was part of this budget. There is great willingness to aid organizations and therapists, she added, with the ministry running both online and regular teaching programs on the care of victims.