This paper reports on a study evaluating the prevalence of posttraumatic symptomatology in a sample of Israeli middle-school students, and the impacts of a 16-session intervention program on mitigating posttraumatic stress-related symptoms.
For the past 8 years, the residents of Sderot, a town in southern Israel, have been exposed to ongoing and intense war-related threat due to daily rocket attacks and mortar shelling from the adjacent Gaza region. This study first evaluates the prevalence of posttraumatic symptomatology in a sample of seventh- and eighth-grade students, and then assesses the efficacy of a universal teacher-delivered skill-oriented and present-focused intervention in preventing and reducing adolescents' posttraumatic stress-related symptoms. 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. They were assessed using self-report measures before and after the intervention on posttraumatic stress-related symptoms, somatic complaints, functional impairment, and anxiety. At baseline, 43.5% 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. Extended ERASE-Stress may help students suffering from significant war-related posttraumatic symptoms reduce their level of symptomatology and can serve as an important and effective component of a community mental health policy for communities affected by chronic trauma, such as war and terrorism.