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A psychiatrist who has been treating Sderot residents who suffer from psychological shock says seven years of Kassam rocket attacks have given her hypertension and diabetes.
Dr. Adriana Katz, 59, is the director of Sderot's mental health center, where she has worked for 12 years, and a newly established clinic called Hosen Nafshi (mental fortitude). She and her husband immigrated from Romania 20 years ago and live in Ashkelon.
Katz told The Jerusalem Post Monday she will continue to run the center and the clinic because her patients need her. But she was not sure the treatment she gives embattled Sderot residents during the current barrage of Kassams is effective, because when they return home they are exposed to more attacks.
"Until now, I didn't think of running away," Katz said. "I felt there was something today. It's an accumulation of pressure and I'm afraid, just like my patients. But still, I can't imagine leaving them."
The Hosen Nafshi clinic was established by the Sderot Municipality and Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center, with Health Ministry backing, so that victims of psychological trauma could get help locally instead of traveling to Barzilai.
Men, women and children suffer equally, Katz said, but some show it less. She spends about two hours with each patient or group of patients, trying to calm them down. Sometimes she gives them tranquilizers.
"But it is very hard, and I am doubtful if the intervention helps much," Katz said. "There are many cases of anxiety, but there has surprisingly not been a large number of long-term, post-traumatic stress cases, at least according to the number of patients seeking help for chronic complaints after being invited back to the clinic."
Most Sderot residents would like to live somewhere else, Katz said, but they are low-income families who have nowhere to go. Some were born in Sderot and want to stay, she added, but all of them are angry at the government for foot-dragging in building shelters.
During the last few weeks, there were times when Katz worked 30 hours in a row.
"My husband comes with me when I am there at night," she said. "He's afraid for me to go to Sderot alone."
Until recently, Katz ran the emergency clinic by herself, but now she has some help.
The city's mental health clinic is treating some 1,000 trauma victims - out of the city's 24,000 residents - who have come to Hosen Nafshi. Katz believes there are more victims, but many are ashamed to seek help.
Magen David Adom said Monday its teams have been working around the clock helping the physically and psychological wounded during the last seven days of rocket attacks. Another security room has been added to MDA's Sderot station, and a generator, toilets and a shower have been installed for the use of medics and volunteers.
The Negev and Lachish regions now have 100 ambulances, 15 intensive-care ambulances and four stations for mass catastrophes.