Three weeks after the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people, a special mental health team arrived from overseas: members of the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC). The Jewish Federation-supported ITC, an international leader in trauma response, had been called in to train more than 450 teachers, counselors, clinicians, clergy and first responders in how to help the Parkland community begin to overcome such a terrible tragedy. “Since Israel has coped for so many decades with the outcomes of war, terror and psychological trauma, we were able to develop knowledge and best practices on how to bounce back, return to normalcy, overcome and even grow out of trauma,” said clinical psychologist Yotam Dagan, one of the ITC therapists dispatched to Parkland.
Few nations have had as much collective experience with psychological trauma as Israel. The constant threat of war and terrorism has made post-disaster mental health treatment a national priority, in part for practical reasons — because a tiny country with such a high potential for calamity needs to keep its institutions up and running, come what may. The Israel Trauma Coalition brings together over 40 organizations to harness their collective expertise, encompassing the entire continuum of trauma care, including direct treatment for trauma victims; training and supervision for on-the-ground professionals; strengthening community resilience; and teaching emergency preparedness and response.
Formed in 2002 to help Israeli people and communities, the Jerusalem-based ITC now trains crisis workers all over the globe, including in post-earthquake Haiti; in Paris after the 2015 terrorist attacks; and in Germany, training teams who help Syrian refugees. In the U.S., the ITC was among the first to arrive following the mass shooting in Las Vegas; and to provide disaster relief in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. Speaking of his resilience training with Parkland teachers, psychologist Yotam invoked tikkun olam. “There are many ways you can help others,” he says. “This is our way of doing something meaningful and helpful. We help start the long process of recovery.”
To learn more about the Israel Trauma Coalition, click here.