REMINDER: Cafe Palestine on Sat 6th May at 4pm UK time

Cafe Palestine 36

Saturday May 6th 2023 at 16:00-17:30 (UK time) 

Get To Know Us! Our lives with mental illness in the Palestinian community

Presenters: Suzan Mitwalli and Dr Yoke Rabaia from Birzeit University
and Professor Hanna Kienzler from Kings College, London

What does it mean to live and participate in the community with severe mental illness? The presenters have researched this question in the context of Palestine with persons with severe mental illness and practitioners from the Palestinian Counseling Centre. Their findings have led to the publication of an illustrated storybook “Get to know us! Our lives with mental illness in the Palestinian community” which explores the difficulties and limited opportunities for people with mental illness to live and participate in their communities.

Chapters focus on the notions of community, life with mental illness, equity, spare time, and the rights to medication and work. In their talk, they will share their insights into community inclusion and participation of people with severe mental illness in Palestine. They will describe the process of co-producing the book and highlight how the book can be used as part of teaching, training and awareness raising initiatives.The project, which has the idea of social justice at its heart will be of interest, not only to those involved with Palestine but also to anyone using or wishing to explore similar collaborations with those living with a mental illness diagnosis. Feel free to read and engage with the book beforehand. A PDF copy of the book (Arabic and English) as well as audio recordings (Arabic) of all the chapters are freely available to you on this website: 

Suzan Mitwalli is an academic researcher at the Institute of Community and Public Health- Birzeit University and assistant coordinator of the Master’s program in Community and Public Health (MPH). Suzan’s main research interest is mental health, and she has worked for many years on intervention research with the Community-Based Rehabilitation organization (CBR). She has also been involved in several research projects at the Institute including women’s health, population health, child health, and occupational health using quantitative and qualitative research methods. Her current research interest is participatory research with people with mental health issues.

Yoke Rabaia is an academic researcher at the Institute of Community and Public Health – Birzeit University. Her main field is psychosocial health of populations in contexts of military occupation and human insecurity, with a specific interest in community-based interventions. Besides her work in Palestine, Yoke also conducted qualitative field research with local researchers in Benghazi, Libya, and Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. She strongly believes that participatory action research is crucial in order to understand and work towards better social conditions for people who are stigmatized or looked down upon by others in society.

Hanna Kienzler is a Professor in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at King’s College London. As an anthropologist, with a long-standing interest in the field of global health, Hanna investigates how systemic violence, ethnic conflict and complex emergencies intersect with health and mental health outcomes. She conducts ethnographic research on the impact of war and trauma on women in Kosovo; participatory action research on what it means for persons with mental health problems to live and participate in their respective communities in Palestine; refugee mental health and place in the UK; and on humanitarian and mental health interventions in fragile states. 

Praise for the book
Rajiah Abu Sway (Director of the Mental Health Project at the Office of the World Health Organization in Palestine):

This is the first book I have read that gives space and voice to a marginalised sector that is not spoken about in our Palestinian community – people with mental illness. These are people we tend to forget about even though they live among us, who we not only pretend not to see or acknowledge, but who we also belittle and address in stigmatising terms, even describing them as crazy. In fact what they need from us is empathy, love, under- standing, and support. What is the situation of these people in our Palestinian community? The book answers this question through their voices, as they tell us about their problems, their dreams, and their aspirations, including their unrelenting determination to live and work, to love and be loved, and to form families like everyone else, and all this in a language that captures the heart.

Doctor Fathi Fleifel (Director of the Mental Health Center of the Palestinian Red Crescent:

This book embodies the real collaboration between the researcher and the researched, between the narrator and the listener without filter or intervening adjustments. This book gives us the opportunity to think about how patients with mental illness see themselves and their surroundings. They spoke in their own way, in simplicity and depth, without affectation or pretence, about the concepts of safety, dignity and rights, all of which are considered the pillars of humanity. Even though I supposedly know a lot about the subject, the book, with its similes and meanings, increased my knowledge and widened my perceptions of the void that still exists. It reminds me that we always can and must do what we can as individuals to contribute to an improvement of the situation, either in the cultural, legal or infrastructural dimension.

Doctor Samah Jabr (Director of Mental Health at the Palestinian Ministry of Health):

This participatory research is a vitally important contribution to our knowledge about the experiences of people who suffer from mental illness, and their relations with their families and the community, in a context of limited income, and exposure to political violence. And this provides evidence to policy makers, mental health professionals, and community leaders, so they can realise that treatment is not limited to medication and does not end between the walls of the hospital. The advocacy for the rights of people with mental illness and a guarantee that they can be integrated into the community are the main elements for individual and community wellbeing.


The Trinity of Fundamentals: with Wisam Rafeedie
Saturday 6th May 5pm UK / 7pm Palestine.

An event taking place in New York.This is the book launch of Rafeedie’s fictionalized account of his nine years of hiding from the Occupation in Palestine, which ended in his capture by the Israeli occupation army in 1991. Rafeedie wrote The Trinity of Fundamentals during his imprisonment at Naqab Prison in 1993.

Makan: ‘Home Is Where Our Hearts Are: Realising The Right of Return’  
Tuesday 9th May 5pm UK/ 7pm Palestine
Luke Williams will facilitate a discussion with Lubnah Shomali, from BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights in Palestine, and Olivier Bancoult, leader of the Chagos Refugee Group, exploring the interconnection between the Palestinian and Chagossian struggle for justice in the face of crimes against humanity.’

Palestinian Collective Memory: 75 Years of Nakba and Resistance
Friday 12th May at 6pm UK / 8pm Palestine
Online event organised by the Palestine Global Mental Health Network.The impressive line-up includes Jeanine Hourani, Asrar Kayal, Lama Khouri, Rozeen Marjieh and Rawan Nemer, with discussants Lara and Stephen Sheehi.

NAKBA 75 – National March: Free Palestine – End Apartheid
Saturday 13 May 2023 at 12pm UK
Location: The BBC, Portland Place W1A, London
Organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Palestine Forum in Britain, Friends of Al Aqsa, Muslim Association of Great Britain and CND.

Meeting place for mental health workers to walk together, alongside supporters of ICAHD-UK: Outside Café Nero at 273 Regent Street W1B 2EZ and at the corner of Great Castle Street; the nearest tube station is Oxford Circus. Please look out for UK Mental Health Palestine Banner.