Sudden Emotional Problems in Gap Year Students



Last week, we wrote here about students arriving in Israel with a preexisting emotional issue. What happens when a student develops an emotional problem while he/she is in Israel? How can the student or parent recognize the signs of a serious problem? Who can the student turn to? How can the parent who is thousands of miles away, help?

There is a lot of assistance and support available to students who are having an emotionally difficult time during their year in Israel. If this is the student’s first time experiencing depression, anxiety, eating problems or “disturbing” thoughts, it can be frightening and overwhelming. Many people “shut down” in these situations, trying to avoid dealing with the problem and not being open about it. Just the opposite is necessary so the student can get the help he/she needs.

It’s important for parents to recognize changes in your child’s behavior. Some of the indicators of everyday stress becoming more serious are:

1. Changes in sleep patterns (taking longer to fall asleep, not feeling rested upon rising, napping more during the day, difficulty getting to morning classes)
2. Changes in eating patterns (skipping meals or overindulging in food)
3. Frequent headaches
4. Frequent complaints of minor (usually vague) illnesses, muscle aches and pains, fatigue
5. More short-tempered than usual, sounding frustrated and angry more often
6. Difficulty in task completion

If any of these warning signs persist over a series of weeks or interfere with your child’s ability to function, it’s important for your child to reach out for help.

You can urge your child/student to speak to a madrich (a), em/av bayit, or the school’s mental health counselor. If the student says “there is nothing wrong” or is uncomfortable speaking to anyone at the school, we urge parents to contact the school yourself. Inform the school your child is displaying A, B, and C behavior. State that it is unusual for the student and you would like the school counselor to speak to the student, to decide if the student’s behavior is serious.

Your child may not want to communicate with you about their personal life and that is okay. Talking about mental health and emotional problems is difficult and tough for everyone. Even if your child does not share details, we urge you to assure your child that emotional problems are very common and he is not alone in these feelings. If your child does need counseling, each school has a list of qualified English speaking therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists to refer to.

There is never a time to be concerned about the stigma of an emotional problem!

“A recent study shows some parents are concerned that other people would avoid their child if it were known they had a mental health problem, but less than 5% of all parents would want their child to avoid a friend with a mental health problem.” Transition Year JED nonprofit organization New York, NY

Students who are keeping their anxiety and fears bottle up inside are more likely to turn to alcohol and drugs (or even food) to self-medicate and numb these negative feelings. The sooner a student is able to talk about what is bothering him/her, the sooner he receives the tools to conquer the issue.
EMA Care is here to help your child receive the assistance and help necessary for any emotional issue.

EMA Care provides medical concierge, case management, and patient advocacy services to tourists, students and residents of Israel. We can be reached at . 052 6398444 Schedule your free consultation today.


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