Knesset panel decries shortage of mental health professionals in Arab sector

MK Hanin Zoabi said that only 2.5 percent of psychologists are Arabs, while 90% of Arabs who need mental health treatment don’t get it.

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December 8, 2015 02:42
1 minute read.
A WOMAN walks past a campaign billboard for the Joint (Arab) List in Umm el-Fahm yesterday

A WOMAN walks past a campaign billboard for the Joint (Arab) List in Umm el-Fahm yesterday. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Israeli Arabs do not receive the same mental health and psychological services available to other citizens, MK Eli Alalouf, chairman of the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee said on Monday.

The issue came up for debate during discussions about a strike launched by psychologists and clinical social workers on Monday in public health clinics nationwide.

Rada Naim, a clinical psychologist in Ibillin, told the committee she and colleagues filling 3.25 job slots treat 400 children along with a psychiatrist who fills a quarter slot.

“There are huge needs and no one to fill them,” Naim said. The shortage of psychologists, social workers and psychiatrists hurt the whole population and not just the Arab sector, she added.

MK Hanin Zoabi said that only 2.5 percent of psychologists are Arabs, while 90% of Arabs who need mental health treatment don’t get it.

“There are no subsidies for Arab students in such fields, Arabs who want to study them face barriers and there are no places for studying specialization,” Zoabi said.

MK Dov Henin said the mental health clinics in Umm el-Fahm and Shfaram were collapsing. MK Jamal Zahalka said tough admissions requirements deterred many Arab students from seeking a master’s degree in psychology.

Health Ministry chief psychologist Yemima Goldberg countered that new psychology programs for Arab students and graduates have been opened but “the number of registrants is small.

“There is budget for it, and whoever wants to specialize can get a personal scholarship.

There are enough institutions where they can specialize so there is no problem of places,” Goldberg said.

MK Eli Alalouf demanded the Treasury report within a month to the committee how it plans to cope with the shortage of mental health professionals in the Arab sector as part of a multi year plan under preparation.


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