Following Self-immolation, Activists Call for Establishment of Psychological Support Groups

Group inspired by Moshe Silman, who died on July 20 of burns sustained when he immolated himself at a social protest rally the week before.

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Activists in the social protest movement have called for the establishment of support groups to provide psychological as well as legal assistance to people in severe socioeconomic straits. The establishment of the group was inspired by the case of Moshe Silman, who died on July 20 of burns sustained when he immolated himself at a social protest rally the week before.

As previously reported in Haaretz, assistance centers say increasing numbers of people are calling with threats to harm themselves. Some 2,500 people have called the Social Affairs Ministry emergency line to talk about their problems since the line was established some 10 days ago.

The two psychologists behind the initiative, Nahi Alon and Niv Agam, have issued an appeal to email lists of mental health and welfare professionals to join the project. "Is it right to view the problems of their lives [of people in distress] as 'a psychological problem' only, as the prime minister believes or as a response to an impossible societal situation?" Alon and Agam asked.

Their appeal goes on to say that defining the problem as only psychological "ignores the social injustice," adding: "We do not want to take this stand, without legal assistance, without pushing through the corridors of the National Insurance Institute, without relating to problems of housing and development, without taking an active part in the struggle against injustice."

The two psychologists said that while that psychological support important, it is not enough, and therefore they will seek to establish multi-professional teams to personally assist people in need. "We want to provide this support until we succeed in the social struggle for policy change; until the state takes responsibility."

Each group of people in need of the program, which is to operate in Tel Aviv's Beit Ha'am and in other places, will be led by two facilitators, and human services professional. The latter will provide concrete assistance in dealing with institutions like the National Insurance Institute and the Housing Ministry.

"We think that people in socioeconomic distress need help to deal better with the cage that is closing in on them," said Alon. "But the psychological assistance we give is only one component, Through solidarity, people who are weaker can better fight for their rights. Support will be given in the framework of the group, rather than individual psychological treatment, Agam said. "Only in a group can you discover that the people on your right and your left have the same problems and you can start thinking how to fight together, first as a group and then as a movement, to change the general policy," he said.

Israeli rescue services evacuating a man who set himself on fire in Yehud, July 22, 2012.Credit: Hadar Cohen



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