Emotional support center opens at Soroka hospital

Beersheba and Jerusalem now operate facilities.

October 20, 2015 01:56
2 minute read.

Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba. (photo credit: PANET.CO.IL)

Less than 24 hours after Sunday’s terrorist attack at Beersheba’s Central Bus Station, the Health Ministry opened a temporary center to provide emotional support at the city’s Soroka-University Medical Center. The free center joins a similar one at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, which has suffered its share of stabbings and other Palestinian violence.

Both are open weekdays to people of all ages from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and are staffed by psychologists and clinical social workers trained to help individuals suffering from anxiety due to the current situation. Both are located adjacent to the hospitals’ emergency rooms.

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The number of the new Soroka center is 08-6403798.

There is no need for a medical referral and no waiting on line. Mental health professionals meet with patients for 15, 30, or 60 minutes, as needed.

Bella Ben-Gershon is a ministry social worker and psychotherapist with expertise in treating psychological trauma who is responsible for both centers. She told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the two centers will “remain open until we have no more patients who need it.”

About 90 percent of those exposed to terrorism and other trauma recover on their own within 24 hours of a traumatic event thanks to help from family and friends, but 10% suffer from anxiety that disrupts their normal functioning, she said.

While most Israelis have not been directly connected to the dozens of terrorist attacks in this round of violence, all of them are worried. “This is, in fact, good, because this makes them more alert to danger. Fortunately, Israelis recover quickly; like mothers after delivering their babies, they forget the pain of childbirth.”

In addition to the ministry center, there are various other services available, such as phone-in help run by the four health funds for their members seven days a week, 24 hours a day. A variety of voluntary organizations also provide free services to alleviate trauma and fear.

During the first two hours after the Soroka center was open, 25 people already came in for counseling, said Ben-Gershon.

The ministry and Tel-Hai College have also prepared a four-minute video film in Hebrew offering simple ways for any resident to help others emotionally during the current period. It will appear from Tuesday on its site at www.health.gov.il, TV stations and other Internet sites.

“The current terrorism can strike anywhere, but the first two intifadas,” said Ben-Gershon, “were horrendous, with bus bombings that killed hundreds. Horrible as this wave is, one has to put it into proportion.”

She urged the public not to suspect all Arabs they meet of being violent.

“We have many Arab colleagues in our mental health facilities, and they help everybody. There is a difference between alertness and paranoia.”

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