The October 7 massacre is a traumatic event unprecedented in Israeli history, and may lead to post-trauma on an equally massive scale.
In the mental realm, it may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on a scale unprecedented in our history. This collective post-trauma won’t just involve masses of victims but also various post-traumas from specific triggers — trauma from shootings and missiles; trauma from physical and sexual violence; trauma stemming from the destruction of homes and communities; trauma experienced by IDF soldiers fighting the war against Hamas in Gaza; and numerous other psychological scars that will impact us as a society and as individuals, following the events of the October 7 massacre and beyond. Comparatively, 1973 (the year of the Yom Kippur War) will seem like child’s play in the face of the challenges of 2023.
The October 7 massacre caught us mentally unprepared. While it’s impossible to brace oneself fully for such a disaster, the nation was already immersed in a conflict surrounding judicial reform, aggravating our collective stress. Then, disaster struck from the South, shattering us all.
Horror stories have continued to emerge ever since that fateful day. We find ourselves swimming in a toxic swamp of loss, suffering, brokenness, and rage. What was once a metaphorical apocalypse has become our new reality, with even sarcasm taking on new, darker meanings.
And remember, we are still immersed in this trauma. While the immediate and direct harm has subsided, the peripheral trauma — such as exposure to stories of horror, sadism, and ongoing conflict — persists even now. Exposure to such evils can lead to post-trauma, especially when experienced simultaneously in various forms.
Post-trauma signifies the human psyche’s struggle to comprehend profound evil. PTSD, in its most overt form, manifests in symptoms like intrusiveness, various forms of anguish, unwanted sexual arousal, and avoidant behaviors.
Not everyone exposed to horrors will develop PTSD, but for many, particularly after the October 7 massacre, the risk is high. PTSD, if undetected and untreated, can lead to a profoundly altered life.
Unfortunately, it’s not just post-trauma at our doorstep; depression is also knocking. Depressive disorders often result from exposure to stressful events. Any of the aforementioned exposures can trigger depression.
While PTSD may scream, depression silently creeps, dissolves, and paralyzes the mind, making it challenging to detect. This silent nature contributes to the impending tsunami of depression, arriving unannounced, possibly just when life seems to be returning to normal.
Men and women, old and young — no one is immune to depression. Vulnerability may be higher in certain populations, with teenagers and young people being particularly at risk due to a number of different factors like limited life experience, excess energy, and underdeveloped brains. Identifying and preparing for this potential wave of depression requires efforts at personal, community, and national levels. While complex, collaborative solutions exist, significant changes are necessary.
If you suspect someone you care about is exhibiting signs of depression or you recognize these signs in yourself, don’t hesitate to seek help from teachers, school counselors, family doctors, parents, or friends. These “gatekeepers” can guide you toward mental health experts and even the act of sharing can alleviate loneliness.
Here are some signs to identify depression:
- Negative emotions: This doesn’t just apply to sadness. Anger and irritability are common expressions of depression.
- Lack of enjoyment: Difficulty feeling positive emotions is as concerning as negative ones.
- Existential thoughts: A desire not to live in a world with so much evil.
- Struggles with cognition: Difficulty concentrating and memory issues may indicate depression.
- Physical sensations: Bodily symptoms may mask depression, especially in those reluctant to admit their mental health struggles.
- Interpersonal relationship struggles: Just because someone is functioning effectively doesn’t mean they don’t have depression – high-functioning people can still suffer, often in interpersonal relationships.
If you recognize one or more of these signs in yourself, reach out to someone. The good news is that depression is treatable, and help is available.