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Support adolescents and help them overcome the Qassams

A new Israeli-American study sheds light on the effect of the Qassem rocket fire on depression among teenagers in Sderot: the social support the teenagers received protected them from depressive symptoms resulting from the escalation of the rocket attacks

Prof. Golan Shahar. Photo by Danny Machlis, Ben-Gurion University.
Prof. Golan Shahar. Photo by Danny Machlis, Ben-Gurion University.

The social support that teenagers in Sderot received protected them from depressive symptoms that resulted from the escalation of Qassam missile attacks that occurred in the summer of 2007. This is according to a joint study conducted by Prof. Golan Shahar from Ben-Gurion University and Prof. Christopher Henrich from Georgia State University in the USA University). The research will be published this month in the prestigious journal American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which publishes outstanding research in the field of mental health of children and adolescents.

The research, which was funded by the Bi-national Science Foundation-BSF, focused on teenagers living in the Western Negev in general, and in the city of Sderot specifically. Prof. Shahar and Prof. Henrich and their research teams followed 29 teenagers before and after the escalation of the Qassem rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, which occurred in the summer of 2007. The teenagers' depression levels and the degree of social support they received from parents, friends and school staff were measured before the escalation, while the degree Qassam missile exposure and related depression levels were measured after the escalation.

The researchers found that the relationship between the degree of exposure to the Kasem missiles and the depression experienced by the teenagers depended on the degree of social support they received before the escalation. Among adolescents with little social support, high exposure to missiles led to high levels of depression, while among adolescents with high levels of social support, high exposure did not lead to high levels of depression.

The findings are a significant reinforcement of the scientific argument, according to which social support is an important protective factor against traumatic stress. "What is particularly important about these findings," says Prof. Shahar, "is that they were found among teenagers who are exposed to chronic extreme stress manifested by prolonged exposure to terrorism, which is accompanied by acute stress resulting from the escalation of the missile attacks during the period in which the study took place. Despite such an intense system of pressures, social support is still a buffer between adolescents and depressive symptoms."

Prof. Shahar and Prof. Henrich have been collaborating closely for eight years, and have published extensively in the field of psychological development, stressful situations and social support in adolescence. They see this research as the highlight of their work, and hope that additional findings will shed additional light on resilience factors that help the teenagers of the Western Negev to grow up in the shadow of terrorism. "These findings", emphasize the researchers, "are not only of basic scientific value, but may also form the basis for intervention programs that will help teenagers develop under the cloud of missiles and the associated pressures of puberty".

One response

  1. Golan Shahar was the most beautiful guy. What happened to him? How much has he eaten in the last decade?

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