MKs Shocked Over Denied Mental Health Support for Families of Abducted Israelis

By Aryeh Stern

Members of the Knesset’s Health Committee were shocked upon learning on Monday that families of Israeli hostages held in Gaza have been denied access to mental health services. The relatives shared their struggles with depression, dysfunction, and physical exhaustion, emphasizing their feelings of neglect.

Nisan Kalderon, whose brother Ofer was abducted from Kibbutz Nir Oz in the Simchas Torah attack, some 150 days ago, disclosed that no representative of the Israeli government had contacted him during this period. Expressing the depth of his distress, Kalderon revealed contemplating ending his own life, underscoring the urgent need for support. He criticized the government for its lack of communication and empathetic inquiry into the well-being of the affected families.

MK Yoni Mashriki (Shas), the committee chairman, pledged mental health care for the families, extending it even after the hostages are released. He called on the Health Ministry to enhance accessibility to treatment, reduce waiting times, and streamline bureaucratic processes. Mashriki urged proactive weekly contact with relatives who have not initially expressed a willingness to receive psychological assistance.

During the committee session, it was revealed that “secondary relatives,” such as grandfathers, uncles, and nephews, were entirely excluded from entitlement to mental health care. Professor Chagai Levin advocated for the families, emphasizing the mental toll of prolonged uncertainty. He proposed the appointment of a nurse liaison and the extension of care to distant relatives.

Dr. Eran Rotman, head of the health division at Maccabi, a leading Israeli healthcare provider, presented alarming health deterioration among the abductees’ families. A survey indicated a significant decline in health perception among 80% of female family members, double the prevalence in the general population. Additionally, 21% reported significant weight loss, and there was a more than two-fold increase in drug usage for anxiety and depression. Sleep disruption was reported by 93% of the surveyed relatives.

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