Emotional crisis hotline reports 150% rise in calls

Sharp increase noted as rockets continue to pound South; hotline operating on emergency schedule.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
March 13, 2012 06:16
3 minute read.
Children take shelter from rockets in sewage pipe

Children take shelter from rockets in a sewage pipe 390 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

There has been a sharp increase in the number of calls received by the country’s emotional crisis hotline Eran over the past three days, since rocket attacks on southern Israel started to escalate Friday night.

“We have been operating on an emergency schedule and giving priority to all the calls coming in from the south of the country,” said Dr. Shiri Daniels, the director of counseling for the organization, which offers a wide range of treatment services for anxiety, stress and other emotional conditions.

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She said that in all of Eran’s 11 branches countrywide, the number of volunteers answering phone calls has been doubled and, while no exact number could be shared by press time, the organization believes that calls have increased by more than 150 percent.

On an average week, Eran receives approximately 300- 400 calls from people experiencing different types of emotional stress. Over the past three days, a spokeswoman said, calls had come in from residents of the South suffering from anxiety and extreme fear as rockets continue to fall.

“We know the hardest thing for a person who is suffering from trauma to do is to pick up the phone and call. If there is no one there to answer that call or if they have to wait too long to get through, then the likelihood that they will call back is very low,” said Daniels, highlighting that the organization has built on its experience from working in other similar high-anxiety situations, including Operation Cast Lead three years ago and the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

She said that if such fear and trauma is left untreated, then the possibility of it developing into ongoing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is much higher.

Daniels also pointed out that the escalation of attacks in the South seems to have acted as a trigger, not only for those living in range of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, but also for people who have experienced trauma in other wars, terrorist attacks or even violence not directly related to the security situation.

“We have seen an increase in calls from all over the country,” she said. “In the South, most of the calls are from mothers or children asking how to deal with the situation. In other places, it is people who are having flashbacks or are nervous after personal experiences.”

For Eran’s employees and volunteers from the organization’s Beersheba branch, their work and the new reality of life under constant rocket fire have been brought together in an unusual way over the last three days.

Housed in a public bomb shelter, those working for the NGO have not only had to respond to an increase in anxious phone calls from local residents but each time there is a “Code Red” siren warning about rocket fire, they must open their office doors as well and allow those living in the immediate area to take cover.

“On Friday night, I made my usual call to our person on duty and in the middle of our conversation, a siren sounded and he had to open the doors of the bomb shelter and let people in,” Dr.

Shula Piura, the director of Eran in Beersheba and the South, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

“I had to go into my own protective room and talk him through the whole procedure as people arrived at the bomb shelter in their dressing gowns, with their children and their pets,” she said.

Piura said that on another occasion on Sunday, a volunteer was helping to calm a mother of four who had called in when, in the middle of the call, a siren sounded.

As he spoke to the women, residents living near Eran’s bomb shelter office filed in for shelter.

“For 25 minutes, we all sat together, hearing the bombs, keeping each other calm and answering phones from the public in other bomb shelters,” she said.

“Our main goal is to remind people that whatever they are feeling is very normal, even though the reality of our situation is abnormal,” said Piura.

To reach Eran’s emotional crisis hotline, call 1201 from any phone or visit them online at www.eran.org.il.

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