In this short documentary film, Palestinian youth and their families in the West Bank describe their experiences since Israel’s siege of Gaza. “I was terrified, actually,” one teenager told Undark. “It could be me next.”

Since Israel’s siege began nearly nine months ago, the death and destruction in Gaza has been staggering, including at least 37,834 and 86,858 deaths and injuries, respectively. And as of March, an estimated 157,200 buildings in Gaza had been destroyed — nearly half of all buildings in the territory, including homes and key infrastructure.

Long before the latest escalation began, tensions in the region eroded Palestinians’ mental health. In 2022, a collaborative effort between The World Bank, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, and other organizations found that more than half of Palestinian adults in the West Bank and Gaza suffer from depression, which is about 10 times higher than the global average. The report also noted high rates of PTSD and other mental health issues.

   This story was supported in part by the Pulitzer Center.

That report did not include nearly half of the population in the region, though: Palestinian youth. And according to mental health experts, young Palestinians are particularly vulnerable when it comes to the region’s mental health crisis. Muna Odeh, a psychotherapist in Ramallah who runs a mental health hotline for Palestinians, told Undark that young people are at an age where they are seeking a sense of control in a situation that has no control at all. “This brings anxiety. Most of them, they feel hopeless, they feel helpless,” she said. “This time, it is hard for them. It is hard as a youth to live in a place where nothing is certain.”

PTSD typically stems from a trauma that has happened sometime in the past, said Iman Farajallah, a psychologist based in California, “and the first thing that you do in order to call or label the trauma that a person is experiencing is to move the victim from the conditions they are living in to a safer condition.”

“However, Palestinians are not able to move,” she added, which has been true for decades of Israeli occupation.

Even in the West Bank, which is relatively stable by comparison to Gaza, the ongoing conflict is taking its toll as people there watch the carnage on friends and family through the news and social media. While hearing explosions on the news, “it just twisted something inside of me, like I felt those emotions coming out. I was scared,” said Dalia Amra, a 10th grade student in Ramallah. “I was terrified, actually. It could be me next.”