AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — The war between Israel and Hamas continues to affect people here in Western New York and local experts say the rising tensions are creating mental health concerns for children and teens.
“As a mother and as an educator, I see it at home, unfortunately our kids are having a really hard time,” said Mihal Lewis, who’s a teacher and school counselor.
Lewis is part of a task force that was recently created and comprised of mental health professionals and several local organizations, including Jewish Family Services, the Jewish Federation and Congregation Shir Shalom. The task force provides comfort to children and teens struggling or overwhelmed.
“We really don’t want to engage in anything violent. Any language that is escalating the situation. We want our students and our kids to disengage,” Lewis said.
“I feel we have a responsibility to the students to make sure they’re aware at an age appropriate level of what is going on,” said Einav Simons, who’s the director of Education at the Congregation Shir Shalom-Gesher Religious School. “We have to be there for them.”
Leaders in the Jewish community want to offer light during a dark time and say the support helps people not feel alone.
“There’s very few Jews in Buffalo, about 10,000. I think we have to be together as a community. We’ve had a lot of support from the outside world too, which has been really nice. But I think it matters to be together to see someone who understands and gets you,” said Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein.
Experts recommend parents who notice their child might be overwhelmed or upset to sit down and talk with their child, or take a walk. Let their child know their feelings are valid.
“It is so horrific, and so many people are hurt on both sides, especially children and teenagers, that we always try to find the peaceful way out and if we can, the more dialogue, the better,” Lewis said.