“A Palestinian society that respects human rights and in which people live in dignity, free of oppression, and feel that their well-being is promoted.” It is a bold mission in present day Palestine and the Gaza Strip, but it is one which the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) has been dedicated to since 1990.
Since its establishment the GCMHP, based in the Gaza Strip, has given special consideration to Palestinian victims of human rights violations, particularly those who have experienced torture during detention and still feel the effects of their experience both physically and psychologically.
The GCMHP was also one of the main platforms of work for global mental health pioneer Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj, who died, aged 70, in December 2013.
El-Sarraj founded the GCMHP in 1990 and continued to work with the team to provide rehabilitation for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, especially women and children.
Speaking with Al Jazeera following El-Sarraj’s death, Husam El-Nounou, who worked alongside him at the GCMHP for 22 years, said the GCMHP has helped some 35,000 Palestinians since its creation.
“Dr. Sarraj paved the way for a discipline that was not well-known, a discipline that was stigmatized not only for the patients, but also for the workers. He lit a candle and he founded an enlightened movement for Gaza and for Palestine,” El-Nounou told Al Jazeera at the time.
To alleviate the impact of torture and organized violence in the Gaza Strip, the GCMHP helps victims coping with traumatic experiences and builds the capacity of professionals working with the effects of imprisonment and torture in the region.
Through prison visits, therapy sessions, education and campaigning, GCMHP hope that past human rights violations can be overcome, and that future human rights violations can be prevented.