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“Telephone Counselling Service”

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Free Telephone Counselling is one of the mental health services that Gaza Community Mental Health Programme provides for the population the Gaza Strip.

Specialized psychologists receive clients’ calls and respond to their complaints and inquires and to educate and counsel them on their issues.

The first counselling hotline was started in 2000 at the beginning of the second Palestinian Intifada. At the time the political and security situation was critical and Gaza governorates were split into different isolated areas, which made it so difficult, and sometime impossible, for people to access the mental health services.

The work hours of the hotline started from 8 am to 3 pm. However, after the deterioration of the situation which resulted from the recurring attacks on the Gaza Strip, and to respond to the increasing demand, the working hours were extended to 8pm. This continued to be the case until 2015.  In 2020, the hotline working hours were again extended after the breakout of Covid-19 pestilence to be from 8 am to 8 pm throughout the whole week.

GCMHP provides this services for free considering the bad economic situation of the people in Gaza and the ramifications of the blockade which has been imposed on Gaza for more 14 years.

Besides there was a cultural consideration, connected with stigma, for establishing the hotline. Many people prefer to receive counselling and mental health support indirectly rather than meeting face to face with psychologists. 

There two types of services provided through the free telephone counselling line:

First, education and counselling:

Education and counselling through providing callers with information about their psychological reactions on problems. This helps them control their feelings and as a result increases their tranquility. 

For example, the telephone counsellors provide information for someone who suffers from panic fits that results from PTSD. Such information orient the client about what PTSD and their signs are, explaining that our reactions are a normal result of something abnormal situation. This helps clients to reduce their fear and anxiety.

In addition, the free telephone counselling line provides information for caregivers and parents about how to deal with children through listening to their complaints and answering their inquiries. Most children complain of symptoms that they develop through experiencing challenging life conditions. These symptoms, such as bedwetting, nightmares, drop in school achievement and violent behaviour has been among the most common problems families complain of as a result of the recurring attacks by the Israeli occupation force against Gaza. Thus the telephone counsellors give consultations and counsels to parents on how to safely deal with their children. 

Second, diagnosis and referral:

Based on complaint assessment and the severity of the psychological signs and their impact of the clients’ lives, telephone counsellors categorize the cases. According to these categories, it is decided what level of intervention a client needs and whether he or she needs to be referred to GCMHP community enters – which provide specialized MH intervention – or to the appropriate type of mental health and psychosocial support services.  

 

The benefits of the counselling hotline are summaries as follow:

-     Raising the awareness of the callers about mental health issues and restricting stigma towards MH patients;

-     Education callers about social problems, which results in decreasing domestic violence and creating a stable family relationship;

-      Creating hope through offering support and relieving the suffering of the clients; 

-     Helping identifying MH cases and referring them to the appropriate services and the specialized centres such as legal protection centres and women and children protection centres and other organisations that deal with education and autism problems. 

-     Creating projects and intervening in crises and identifying social needs based on analyzing the information which are documented in the special forms.