This study first evaluated the prevalence of posttraumatic symptomatology in a sample of seventh- and eighth-grade students who had been exposed to years of an ongoing and intense war-related threat, and the study then assessed the efficacy of a universal teacher-delivered, skill-oriented, and present-focused intervention intended to prevent and reduce posttraumatic stress-related symptoms among these students.
This study was conducted in Sderot, a town in southern Israel that for the past 8 years has been exposed to an ongoing war-related threat from daily rocket attacks and mortar shelling from the adjacent Gaza region. In a quasi-randomized controlled trial, 154 seventh- and eighth-grade students with significant levels of war-related exposure were assigned to participate in either a manualized active 16-session intervention (Extended Enhancing Resiliency Amongst Students Experiencing Stress, ERASE-Stress) or a waiting-list control group. Before and after the intervention, the students were assessed with self-report measures of posttraumatic stress-related symptoms, somatic complaints, functional impairment, and anxiety. At baseline, 43.5 percent of the students were found to have a likely diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder. A month after the intervention ended, students in the active intervention showed statistically significant reduction on all outcome measures compared with those in the waiting-list control group. The study concluded that Extended ERASE-Stress - a universal teacher-delivered skill-oriented program not targeting traumatic memories and involving trained and supervised homeroom teachers - may help students suffering from significant war-related posttraumatic symptoms reduce their level of symptomatology. It can be an important and effective component of a community mental health policy for communities affected by chronic trauma, such as war and terrorism. (publisher abstract modified)