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2023 War

ELEM Hosts Largest Conference on Post October 7th Youth Mental Health

By March 20, 2024No Comments

This week, Lenore Ruben, President of ELEM US, attended ELEM’s “From Emergency to Recovery,” the largest conference on youth mental health in Israel in the aftermath of October 7th. Created by ELEM at the initiative of Mrs. Michal Herzog, the wife of Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, the conference tackled the impact of displacement and war, and ELEM’s innovative approach to breaking the cycle of trauma. 

The event, hosted at the President’s home, brought together over 120 participants ranging from senior officials in the public, social, and philanthropic sectors, as well as a large delegation of ELEM employees, volunteers, and evacuated youth. The opening reception featured a panel discussion, moderated by Channel 12 journalist Yael Odem, between Gaya Nir, Director of ELEM’s Breathing Spaces program, and youth that ELEM serves. Stories of the youth were additionally reflected in a photo exhibition, as well as a musical performance by the band Hypnoza, made up of displaced teenagers from the North of Israel.  

Data coming out of Israel indicates that over 50% of displaced youth are dropping out of traditional school, family, and social frameworks; of those, 47% have already started consuming drugs and alcohol at alarming rates. Recent articles in Tablet Magazine (“Israel’s Mental Health Tsunami”) and the Jerusalem Post point to a growing awareness within the US of the mental health impacts of ongoing war and recent trauma on Israeli society. Yet support is still underfunded, and individuals must often actively seek therapy or pursue a referral in order to get help. 

ELEM, on the other hand, is a unique lifeline for youth, many of whom do not seek out traditional therapy. The Breathing Spaces program, created in the immediate aftermath of October 7th, meets teens where they are: operating at hotels for displaced families during late night hours, and at schools during school hours. ELEM’s longstanding, innovative approach provides trauma support and interventions in the places most needed, to the youth most at-risk. 

The numbers of at-risk youth are only increasing as a result of the war, and ELEM’s work is more critical than ever. “Since the outbreak of the war, thousands of teenagers have joined the circle of teenagers at risk,” shared ELEM Israel chairman and former Minister of Education Rabbi Shai Piron. ELEM is working to support these newly at-risk youth, as well as continuing to operate over 80 other programs to support young mothers, homeless individuals, survivors of assault, and thousands of others. 

As ELEM expands the Breathing Spaces into more schools around the country to minimize rates of drop-out and other risky behaviors,  we live up to the words shared by Mrs. Michal Herzog: “Israel has extraordinary youth. Each and every one of them has a unique spark.  So we must not give up on a single one of them. We must not leave anyone behind.” 

Gaya Nir will be visiting the US this April as we conclude our emergency campaign. For updates on speaking engagements, join our mailing list. To book a talk with Gaya, email us