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Amid ongoing rockets, WhatsApp helps Gaza border moms cope – study

CM 20/05/2021 1

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 In highly targeted areas in Israel, many young mothers find solace in WhatsApp group chats, a study by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has revealed.  

In recent years, social media applications have become a significant resource for communication in times of emergency and are being used as a communal coping mechanism during natural disasters and wars.
Living in an ongoing conflict area can have a variety of harmful mental health consequences, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.
The new research found that for mothers who live close to the Gaza Strip, belonging to a local WhatsApp group plays a central role of emotional and practical support.
The study was conducted through in-depth interviews with 12 members of a WhatsApp group operating in a community near the Israel-Gaza border. The findings from this group were compared to a group of mothers in a community in the Arava of the same size and with the same socio-economic background whose residents do not face ongoing terrorism.
Social support can reduce distress by helping people deal with their problems, being a place to vent emotions during emergencies, and even by being a source of information as well as for problem-solving and finding courses of action.
“The discourse in the group relieves and releases tension through humor. In these tense moments, there are a lot of laughs and jokes in the group. It frees you; you have to press the right button and the emotional tension dissipates,” said one of the interviewees.

“The mothers of the community perceived the local WhatsApp [group] as the most reliable and accurate tool,” says Yuval Roitman, the student who conducted the study. “For example, when mothers in the group received messages in the media about returning to routine and opening schools, they consulted with the group whether to send [their children] to school and relied more on the discretion of the group members than on government announcements.”
“The immediacy, accessibility, mobility and possibilities of using different types of media are what have contributed to the role of WhatsApp as a common coping resource that is everywhere,” said Dr. Dafna Yeshua-Katz of BGU’s Communications Department, who led the study.
“The WhatsApp group helped its members, who are in the community area where there are not always alarms, to understand whether the explosions they heard posed a direct threat and whether they should take shelter or put the children to sleep in the emergency room,” she said. “The use of this tool became essential.”
“The findings of the study could help healthcare providers working with populations in conflict areas harness digital technologies to support community coping processes,” Roitman concluded.
The study is based on Roitman’s thesis, done under Yeshua-Katz’s supervision.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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