August 01, 2008
Terror – Then and Now
Nothing can erase the very vivid memories we have of Israel and the five or six year period that began in the year 2000. With what seemed to be an almost daily occurrence, turning on the morning news brought word of another attack that killed and maimed so many. While the frequency of such attacks has certainly diminished, how many of us NOW…TODAY stop to think about those who either personally survived an attack or lost a loved one in such an attack? How are they managing, years later? Does the trauma ever go away? Can they resume a "normal" life?
In an exchange I had this past week with Karyn London, a social worker who works with terror survivors through Atzum, (http://www.atzum.org) a fine Israel-based organization that has been on the front-lines helping people for many years, I learned that indeed, life doesn’t really return to "normal" for so many. Karyn shared so much critical information. Here are just short insights that she related from a recent seminar held for professionals in the mental health field:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: so many people have never recovered from this and more and more is being learned about its effects…the inability to sustain relationships (even with family members), how parents have difficulty interacting with their children and intimacy is affected; how it is very difficult for a child to feel loved (what they need most) when the parent is just not there for them. We see lots of children whose parents were injured who are doing poorly in school, … about how their coping mechanisms are deflated, the constant fear many live with as they "relive the attack" with many daily activities via their senses such as noises and smells. Imagine that any loud noise from a building site being developed might make a woman working as a secretary in a nearby office jump and shake and then render her unable to concentrate or even go to work the next day. Imagine the man who can’t go in a kitchen, restaurant… as anything that is even mildly burnt attacks his sense of smell taking him back to the Pigua (attack) and the smell of burning.
In terms of help for these people, Karyn shared that though National Insurance does a lot "there are many people who do not get services and of those who do there are many things that are not provided."
A Case in Point From A Prior Terror Attack
R.S. was injured several years ago when she was riding in a bus that was blown up. She sustained severe injuries to her eyes which cannot be reversed. At the time, she worked successfully in a full-time position and is fortunate that her employer has allowed her to keep her job despite the fact that she often misses work due to loss of sleep and general distress.
Her husband is employed full-time and goes to school as well. Their relationship has suffered as a result of the attack and with the diminished income they will not be able to help their son continue his education at a nearby college. Their daughter has also felt the effects of the attack as the mother has difficulty being close to her. The daughter has now dropped out of high school and is involved with drugs.
Karyn’s email also included information relating to the current situation. What is happening to people who live in Sderot today? How are they coping with the almost daily barrage of rocket attacks? As Karyn shared:
Sderot is an entirely different problem. These families and children do not only have Post Trauma but are living in continuous trauma. They have had their homes and schools hit by rockets, some have physical injuries and others have the symptoms of Post Trauma like fear of loud noises, sleeplessness, general agitation or the inability to function normally or carry on healthy relationships with family members. Despite the many efforts to help them, they are exposed again and again day and night. In many cases the therapeutic interventions are not enough or just can’t beat the continuous stress. One woman I spoke to told me she never took an aspirin and now lives on tranquilizers.
I was told another story by a social worker about a young mother who always kept her home immaculate. Now she is afraid to wash her floor because she fears that while washing the floor there will be an attack and because the floor is wet one of the children will slip and get hurt. Now she gets up at 4:30 in the morning to do the floor because she knows that this is a quiet time when there are generally no rockets. The social worker in this case is concerned about how tired this woman is and the lack of energy she has for her kids every day.
Most families sleep and spend most of their day in the same room the "safe room" -this as you can imagine, puts additional strain on familial relations and the added lack of privacy for the parents.
The bottom line is that most of the families in Sderot have been affected- many already have a 20% disability and many more are waiting to be approved. This doesn’t however relieve us from helping those that have yet to be taken in by the system. (these people have at the minimum a temporary percentage of disability assigned to them).
A Case in Point From Sderot
L. is married and has 3 children and was a successful teacher before the attacks took their toll on her. She has had PTSD for the past 4 years which started when a rocket landed close to where she was standing near her home. (this was before there was a warning system in place as there is today)
Her husband works full time as did L. before the attack. Today she works very part time depending on her emotional state from day to day.
She is considered one of the best teachers in the area and is well liked by her neighbors, her students and their parents. She is under the care of a psychiatrist and is in therapy with a social worker. Though she is determined to overcome the trauma, her family which was once economically successful is now forced to live on half of what they were earning before. L. cannot work every day and her husband often takes time off from his job to be with her. Many things that they were able to do for their children before, they can no longer provide, which has led to a lot of distress within the family. Even privacy is now a problem as the entire family must sleep in the "safe room" each night in the event that there is a rocket attack.
The bottom line is that this family which was entirely self supporting and actually high contributing members of their community are now dependent upon the system. A very sad situation…
What can we do? How do we help those people whose lives will never be the same? The Good People Fund is sending further funds to help both people in Sderot and those who were affected by past terror attacks. We invite anyone who wants to help in this effort to send their donation along with a note that it is to be used to help terror victims in Israel.