During this difficult period, ELEM — which has always provided critical mental health support in emergency situations — has expanded its online services and is providing as much support as possible to evacuated youth in pop-up locations.
ELEM’s Work During the 2023 War
October 7th has been very personal to all of us at ELEM. We have lost four incredible volunteers:
Yasmin Bira of Kibbutz Be’eri has been mentoring a young woman as part of our Young Mothers at Risk program. After a few days of uncertainty, we’ve learned that Yasmin and her family have been murdered by Hamas on October 7th.
Yonatan Richter, Lior Hadad, and Sigal Levy were all volunteers with ELEM’s Good People program. As part of the program, we send our vans with teams to mass gatherings and rave parties to provide immediate mental support to distressed youth in real-time, due to substance use, violence, and more.
ELEM sent nine volunteers to the Nova Music Festival, but only 6 returned. We’ve lost Yonatan, Lior, and Sigal, who were all incredible people who helped others until the last minute. Sigal was also a former employee of ELEM.
May their memory be a blessing.
The Story of Good People
Three days after the events of October 7th, ELEM was already where we were needed the most — on the ground.
We’ve sent teams made of staff and volunteers to towns hosting displaced families, including families from the Gaza Envelope (the area surrounding the Gaza border), and Northern Israel.
Our vans arrive, set up shop, and offer mental health support in an informal setting. Young people who survived the massacre at the Nova Outdoor Rave Festival and youth who’ve witnessed family members and friends being murdered or kidnapped — they all come to us.
Many don’t want to talk about what they’ve witnessed and prefer to play board games, have snacks and talk about their pets and hobbies. This builds trust and helps youth open up later on.
The initial success of the first two spaces led to collaboration with the Ministry of Welfare to open more spaces. ELEM’s services are in high demand – we currently have 16 spaces and hope to open four more. We also aspire to launch spaces at schools once displaced youth start attending again. That way, we’ll provide them with a continuous presence throughout their day, understanding it’ll be hard for them to reintegrate into a school routine.
Download our information sheet about the pop-up space here.
Since the beginning of the war:
ELEM held 963 chats online with youth in distress
ELEM launched 17 of pop-up/breathing spaces in evacuee centers.
Youth at the centers showed various types of distress*:
46% reported experiencing depression and anxiety
60% reported experiencing loneliness
47% reported their use of alcohol and drugs
20% reported their involvement in violent incidents in public spaces.
* Out of a 1000 evacuated youth
- The first tier — youth who experienced the horrors firsthand, managed to escape, and often lost friends or family members or have a connection to hostages.
- The second tier — youth who haven’t experienced the horrors first hand but know people who did.
- The third tier — youth who live far from the Gaza Envelope but have been exposed to content from the massacre online via videos or pictures.
With that in mind, it is no wonder we’ve seen the number of inquiries to ELEM’s online chat quadruple, as teens from all over Israel suffer anxiety and depression under the current unimaginable stress.
Thousands of youth are currently displaced from their homes and live in hotels or a host town/kibbutz.
Hundreds of youths have already visited ELEM’s Wartime Pop-Up Spaces.
The amount of youth and young people at our shelters has doubled as graduates who were living independently asked to return in order to not be alone during the war.
Leading Israeli mental health professionals have also reported high suicide rates in the wake of Hamas sexual violence.