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Gaza holds mental health conference

The Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) held the sixth international conference entitled "Mental Health and Human Rights" in Gaza city last week.

Attended by 800 professionals, including physicians and psychiatrists, researchers, university staff, students and activists in the field of mental health and human rights from governmental and non-governmental organisations, the conference aims to create an opportunity for scientific discussion and promote professional cooperation and exchange of knowledge between Palestinian and international professionals in the field of mental health and human rights.

Held on the 26th anniversary of the establishment of GCMHP, it also aims to raise the international community's awareness of the status quo in Palestine and call for change and an end to the Israeli occupation, the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, and all violations of Palestinian human rights.

The speakers highlighted the correlation between mental health and human rights, indicating that the Israeli occupation, the Gaza blockade, the three military operations in Gaza in the past eight years, in addition to the internal Palestinian political divide, have had a significant impact on the mental well-being of the Palestinians.

Over 30 research papers in the field of mental health and human rights were presented during the conference. In addition to research papers from Gaza and the West Bank, 15 papers were submitted by bodies from several countries including the United States, Britain, Sweden, Germany and South Africa.

Director of UNRWA Operation in Gaza, Bo Schack, spoke at the event, stressing the importance of mental health services and the significance of organising such conference.

Participants emphasised the need to develop psychosocial services and programmes for war and siege victims and for all the bereaved and those who have lost homes as a result and their sources of income.

"It was my pleasure to be able to attend the conference, which brought to my attention many ways/interventions that could be applied in the context of mental health," Marina Tucktuck, a researcher from the USA who attended the conference said. "Many of you are doing great work in this regard."

"I left Gaza with much sadness but with a desire to return to help with the work you are doing," Ashraf Kagee, a psychiatrist from South Africa added.

Images are courtesy of Gaza Community Mental Health Program.

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