Acute Stress Disorder in Palestinian Children in the Gaza Strip
Thabet, Abdelaziz Mousa
Thabet, Sanaa S.
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Aim: This study aimed to describe the range of acute traumatic stress disorder symptoms in a sample of displaced and non-displaced children and adolescents in the Gaza Strip. Methods: This was descriptive analytic study. The study sample consisted of 381 children and adolescents ranging in age from 7 to 18 years. Regarding displacement status, 190 of them were non-displaced (50.1%) and 191 were displaced (49.91%). Ninety-four of displaced children were boys (49.22%), while, 73 of non-displaced children were boys (38.41%). One hundred seventeen of displaced children were girls (61.6%), 97 of non-displaced children were girls (50.8%). Children were assessed by a socio demographic questionnaire, the Gaza Traumatic Events Checklist, and Acute Stress Disorder Scale. Results: The highest frequencies of reported traumatic events for both groups (displaced and nondisplaced) were hearing shelling of the area, hearing the loud voice of Drones, and watching mutilated bodies in TV. However, displaced children reported more traumatic event such as forced to leave home with family members due to shelling, receiving pamphlets from Airplane to leave home at the border area to the city center, threatened by telephone to leave their homes for bombardment of homes, destruction of their personal belongings during incursion. Displaced children reported more traumatic events than non-displaced ones (Mean= 13.6 vs. 9.08). Boys reported more traumatic events. Using the DSM-V criteria, 10.0% of non-displaced children and 18.4% of displaced children had acute traumatic stress disorder. Displaced children reported more acute stress disorder, dissociative, re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal symptoms. Traumatic events were associated acute traumatic stress, re-experiencing, and hyperarousal symptoms. Conclusion and recommendations: This study showed that Palestinian children and adolescents are victims of continuous war and trauma, and will develop new symptoms of acute stress disorder after exposure to war in the Gaza Strip. Such findings highlight the needs for better mental health services for children especially displaced populations who are not able to return to their homes due to the siege, in order to increase their coping abilities and resilience in face of adversities.