The chaos caused by conflicts over the coalition’s comprehensive judicial reform has not only hurt the economy, solidarity, and order and encouraged Israel’s enemies – it has caused sleeplessness and emotional anguish among ordinary citizens.
Dr. Shiri Daniels, the national professional director of the voluntary organization ERAN (Emotional First Aid, phone number 1201), said that calls to its round-the-clock hotlines show that the political-social situation takes a mental toll.
In the past week, an unprecedented number of 1,338 distress calls were received by ERAN, including dozens of calls that were defined by the applicants as directly arising from the political and social situation and hundreds of distress calls that were intensified only by the unprecedented crisis in Israeli society.
How has judicial reform harmed Israeli society?
For example, a participant complained that in the last week, he has not been able to sleep due to a feeling of abysmal despair. He said he found himself compulsively checking social media for every scrap of information on the legislation and that it makes him depressed.
A woman in her 60s began her conversation with heartbreaking tears. The combination between a divorce, a son leaving for Germany and the immense loneliness together with the disturbing news became impossible for her to overcome it all.
An applicant who opposes the protest said he felt pressure in his chest and blamed the protesters, those who said they would stop volunteering for military service and “the leftists. We are no longer one people,” he said.” During the conversation, he calmed down and said “Thanks for listening.”
A young woman described having little energy and being reluctant to do anything due to worrying about the political situation and the loss of the country’s democratic character.
A woman who said she was religious and belonged to the right side of the political map said that she has found herself thinking differently from her family members. The price of this can be rejected, she added. She decided to call ERAN because she felt the need to normalize her views that are different from the environment in which she lives.
A young man who served in the army said he contributed to the country but now felt “suffocated” and that he is “getting nothing in return. No thanks, and no gratitude. The situation at home is not easy either.”
David Koren, ERAN’s CEO, said that “as a voluntary organization that provides psychological assistance to everyone all year round, we continue during this period distress is increasing on both sides of the line. Our volunteers face a complex mental challenge themselves, and, at the same time, they those who turn to us. In fact, these days we hear many voices calling for dialogue and hope for calm.”
Daniels said that the political-social situation is taking a mental toll on Israelis. “The feeling is that the threads that have woven Israeli society over the years are slowly being unraveled and rifts are being created between groups and individuals. This feeling undermines and harms mental well-being in a way that requires rehabilitation and recovery, healing of the damaged trust. The feeling of rejection that people experience these days, along with the loneliness and alienation and the loss of the most basic sense of acceptance and appreciation undermine everything we have known and given us security and lead to real existential anxiety. We call on anyone who is experiencing distress due to the situation to contact us by phone or online and have a kind, inclusive, and connecting conversation.
Daniels’s prescription for feeling better is:
- Stay active. Activity provides meaning in times of uncertainty. There are many different ways to be socially active with people who share the same set of beliefs and values and, if possible, with a community that expresses solidarity and gives space. Practice mindfulness, relaxation and exercise while being aware of your breathing.
- Be committed to others. Professional and social, family, and marital relationships are important and stabilizing. Preserve them even in situations of disagreement. Talk about things openly and sensitively and agree that one is allowed to disagree.
- Help others, as it can help you as much as it can assist others.
- Avoid uncontrolled use of social media and limit exposure to the media. Take control of the amount and type of information you consume. Avoid programs, profiles and pages that negatively affect your mental well-being and add to the feeling of distress.
- During your free time, practice positive thinking and don’t lose touch with the present as opposed to the missing and the empty. Optimism and hope are the order of the hour.
ERAN provides life-saving mental first aid service 24/7 – anonymously and immediately – to those who call 1201 or go into its webite at https://www.eran.org.il.