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This is a very helpful article.
Social media is a net negative for most of us. I don’t use it more than once in a blue moon, and I’m happier and less traumatized for that. Substack doesn’t count in my opinion. This is a salon of ideas.
And regardless of political affiliation, anyone giving a fair assessment to the American approach to this terrorism in Israel, and the necessary Israeli response (hopefully as surgical as possible), should give Biden credit. His old age is a major asset here, as is his Senate Foreign Relations committee experience, Vice presidential experience, and commitment to decency and decorum after events that aim to stoke horror. He takes his kids to a Holocaust site as a rite of passage in their education, and he “gets” the lessons of the past 80 years. I find comfort in steady, level-headed leadership from another era, the kind that is not formulated by the reactionary and fearful amygdala.
Cope with the cortex.
Thank you for this. I read the piece and then decided to comment, but when I saw some of the discussion here, I decided against it and went and deleted the email. I then decided to come back and comment anyway.
Your piece is very timely as I have been struggling emotionally with far too much access and diving into news sources about the ongoing conflict. I am a second generation American of Lebanese and Palestinian descent. I have never traveled to that part of the world. I am an American first and foremost and I love this country. Yet, it is simply unavoidable to have an emotional connection with the homeland of my ancestors. And watching what has taken place and continues to unfold pains me greatly. I will not attempt to discuss my views about the conflict, but I do need to step away a bit from the quantity of what I have been consuming, both on social media and television. I want to keep abreast of developments as the crisis is real, and it is serious. Yet at the same time, I have to maintain a sense of what I can control and the things I can control are things like being here for my family, talking with friends about how I'm feeling about what is happening, and taking care of my own health.
I wish the best for all of you here, and I'll just end here.
It’s not an “Israel-Hamas war”. It’s the Palestinian revolution and now genocide. I think it’s interesting that we call Hamas a terrorist group, but do not provide the same label to the Israeli government, who even prior to the attack by Hamas, had murdered around 200 people in 2023 alone. Israel has mass arrested, denied government IDs, controlled the movements, arrested even children (disturbing *real* images exist of Israeli armies, dragging children blindfolded through the streets during their arrests), and, they even murdered a Palestinian journalist last year, Shireen Abu Akleh. They have systematically, harassed, controlled, arrested, tortured, Palestinians for decades. Why we don’t call them a terrorist organization is because of geopolitical alliances and power dynamics. Stop calling it a war. It is a genocide. And yes, it is traumatic to watch. But what is more traumatizing, is watching everyone around us, from news organizations, PBS, to even newsletters like this mis-name and mis-represent what is actually taking place through incorrect terminology and framing. It’s mass western imperial propaganda taking place. I understand why major news corporations are doing it, but when it comes down to a single author, and a private publication such as this one, my blood boils. You had a chance to correct this historic wrong, inform your readers, and use the correct framing, and you chose not to. You chose to deny what is happening, which is Palestinian genocide. A powerful quote by a Palestinian writer, Jenan Matari, is below, “If you’ve ever wondered what you would’ve during American slavery, and how outspoken and how much personal risk and protection you’d have offered during the holocaust, or how you would have reacted during the internment camps in America, and how deeply, and how often you would have protested for civil rights, take a look right now at what you were doing for Gaza, and know, that’s exactly what you would’ve done in the times before.” Apparently, this publication would have been siding with western imperialist framing and viewpoints.
Thanks. Vicarious trauma is part of our culture and heritage, and I hope there will be more awareness...though so often, awareness doesn't seem to bring change. Our movies and TV reflect the high level of violence in the world and the nation, so getting away from exposures requires a lot of practice.
On another note, it's very white supremacy of everyone to decide that the cost of caring burden is too high and that we should "look away" for our own mental health.
This is an excellent overview on vicarious trauma. I direct a program -- the Witness to Witness Program -- for people who are over exposed to stories/images of trauma both on social media and in their occupations (journalists, health care workers, for instance) and we believe there is a more general response we call empathic distress. We have abundant resources on our web pages:handouts, archived webinars and blogs in English and Spanish. https://www.migrantclinician.org/witness-to-witness
The other factor is an actual connection. There are tens of thousands of American Jews who live in Israel and/or are dual American-Israeli citizens. And I would assume there are a large number of Arab and Palestinian Americans with friends and family in the impacted countries. That increases stress immeasurably.
Life is complicated. Having to sign in via an email authorization demonstrates this.
Whether the association of exposure to threats/trauma is causative or a confounder remains very difficult to tease out. That does not invalidate efforts to decrease suffering. Thanks to those compassionate souls seeking to do so.
Just a reminder: there is much more violence in our world than makes the news. TK
Thank you for this❤️
So, I get this, and I understand it’s meant as a matter of degree but to the extent that people believe that *individual* mental health requires ignoring both the current suffering of others and the future suffering of oneself and one’s children, grandchildren—against a background of widespread denial about all kinds of truly existential threats and the *collective* ability and moral necessity to meet them—such advice (or sanction) is problematic.
I come late to this, but wanted to weigh in to add my thanks. I really appreciate this post. I don’t think we really realize how much media can affect us in such situations, and it is very helpful to have it laid out as Dr. Jetelina does so usefully here.
Thank you for this article as social media can cause so much negative and confusing emotions. It is hard to feel fear and pain and there are ways to make space for them in a healthier way. Again, thank you for sharing.
This all brought back memories of Ireland pre-1998, being pulled by sides. It was the US that helped, and the US took risks. It's easy now to take John Hume and David Trimble and that generation for granted. It cost them. Hume's party declined. Trimble faced a powerful base and reaction.
Biden is from that generation.
I heard talk recently about mental health issues that remain in Northern Ireland, even 25 years after the Good Friday Agreement. Thank you for the article. It strikes the memory chords.
Sadly this is but one example of a pattern that repeats throughout history: https://snyder.substack.com/p/terror-and-counter-terror
“But what experience and history teach is this – that peoples and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.” - Hegel, The Philosophy of History, trans. J. Sibree, Batoche Books, 1900, p. 19.
In my experience, that list of bullet points applies to news in general and both new and pseudo-news on social media. I now generally ignore my "news feed" on FB and other sites and limit myself to seeing what my friends are up to.
Human behavior, heavily influenced by biology, the environment, and social determinants, has a huge impact on public health. Aggression, conflict, and war are a major avenue of impact. Can epidemiology, in collaboration with all other sciences, investigate the etiology of conflict to identify interventions to prevent it - ideally through primordial or primary prevention? https://go.unc.edu/VictorSchoenbach