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Looking Beyond the Pandemic’s Physical Impacts
(Pixabay)

Looking Beyond the Pandemic’s Physical Impacts

Ma’ariv, Israel, July 14

When we talk about the fourth wave of the coronavirus, the first few things that come to mind are closures, quarantines and isolation. These things come to mind because even if the fourth wave is dangerous from a physical and epidemiological standpoint, what is flooding us these days is rather the mental aspects of it. Israel will deal with the physical illness, that much I am sure of. But we are not yet ready for the mental epidemic that comes along with it. After a long year in which we learned to deal with the medical consequences of COVID-19, it’s time to finally draw attention to its psychological consequences as well. There’s a new government in Israel, new ministers and a new prime minister. Will the State of Israel change its attitude toward the mental needs of its citizens? Will it finally focus its attention on the children and adolescents who have gone through a difficult year? Or on the medical teams who have taken care of us? Unfortunately, Israel’s state-sponsored psychological care services have been depleted and neglected for many years. Today, a citizen who needs mental attention has had to wait over six months to receive the proper treatment. The medical teams worn out by incessant work over the past year are once again preparing to fight the new wave of the virus. They will pay the mental price for their work alone, since most Israeli hospitals don’t provide adequate psychological support for their staff. Infants and toddlers whose life routine has been repeatedly violated during repeated COVID-19 waves are also forced to wait six months or more for developmental psychological treatment at child health care centers. We stand at a crucial turning point that provides a significant opportunity for the new government to implement a comprehensive national program in public psychology, in order to enable psychological treatment for every citizen. The time has come to devote resources to the rehabilitation of the public psychology system. Today, it’s already clear that the economic and social resilience of the state rests directly on the mental resilience of its citizens. And without restoring the mental resilience of the citizens, it will be impossible to restore Israel’s social and economic resilience. We went through a difficult year and the State of Israel has proven that it knows how to deal with complex challenges. Rehabilitating and building up a national program in public psychology is no easy feat, but one that can make a significant change in our society for generations to come. We all share the hope that the fourth wave of the coronavirus will be the last we experience. Let’s also hope that this is also the last wave of psychological distress the Israeli public has to go through without a functional health system that takes care of their mental health. – Dr. Yuval Hirsch (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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