This letter features reporting from "Israel’s Only Refugee Mental Health Clinic Works in Shadow of Closure" by Isma'il Kushkush
Dear Representative Beyer,
I would like to bring to your attention a grave issue affecting African refugees seeking mental health assistance in Israel. Please understand that though this matter is playing out thousands of miles away, it is closely connected to our own community. In June of 2018, freelance journalist Isma’il Kushkush published a report on this issue entitled “Israel’s Only Refugee Mental Health Clinic Works in Shadow of Closure.” In short, Israel has become starved of governmental funding for mental health institutions; its sole institution is in danger of closing. This institution, called the Gesher Clinic, is a source of relief for Israel’s nearly 38,000 African asylum seekers, many of whom are victims of trafficking and abuse. However, as growing numbers of patients have sought healing, many have been turned away for financial reasons.
This issue is extremely important to me because it has a direct impact on countless lives. I will spare you the details, but many of the accounts I read involved people facing deeply troubling psychological issues--for example, one woman had been raped and impregnated by traffickers in Sinai. Stripped of legal rights and access to health care, she had attempted to kill herself and her baby. On a related note, I recently finished reading a novel entitled Ishmael, a literary work that highlights the darkness of our society today. It features a series of captivating discussions between the narrator and his mentor, all of which highlight mankind’s predicament: our constant fixation on dominance over the natural world has begun to tear us apart. We have waged a subconscious war on all that surrounds us, and in doing so we have spiraled into an abyss of crime, drug abuse, depression, and insanity. The mentor believes that humans have a bizarre yet deep-rooted notion that this is the way the world is meant to be; a notion that prevents us from taking action. Though we may not always realize it, mental health issues in our own community are far from anomalous. Within my own high school, I recently grieved the terrible loss of a student who committed suicide. His death shook the entire student body to the core, and it forced me to realize that students and citizens all around us are in desperate need of guidance.
To combat this issue, we must focus on awareness. So many people--including peers of mine--are unwilling to seek help because they fear the social stigma that surrounds depression and mental illness. They are bound by invisible fetters; trapped by the demonization of mental health patients. Within our community, it may be helpful to display posters about mental health, encouraging citizens to seek assistance if they feel the need. Our people need to know that getting help is not an insurmountable task; that there are numerous programs put in place to help them. The promotion of hotlines, including the Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Mental Health Hotlines, may begin to lift the stigma around struggles with mental health. I genuinely hope that you will consider my requests--I speak for those without a voice, and these changes have the potential to save lives.
Anais Beauvais is a sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax, Virginia. She loves music and is a swimmer and lacrosse player. As a student at a magnet school of highly driven peers, she wishes to destigmatize the treatment of mental illnesses. She draws inspiration from poetry and writing, and hopes that all those suffering from mental health disorders will find the strength to seek help.
Click here to read more winners and finalists from the 2018 Local Letters for Global Change contest.