The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, which represents more than 60,000 mental-health professionals across England and Wales, stated earlier this month that it is “deeply sorry” that it didn’t publish an article titled “A community in traumatic stress,” as well as “for the hurt that decision has caused.”
The article, by the psychologist Sandi Mann, a senior lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, had been slated to appear in the association’s journal Workplace. The association subsequently posted the article online.
“It will also go in the next print version of the journal,” Mann wrote on LinkedIn. “This is a very important victory against the culture of threats and intimidation that Jews are facing in the UK today.”
“When Hamas committed its horrendous massacre of approximately 1,200 Israeli civilians and abduction of over 240 men, women and children on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, the impact on the local Jewish communities in the UK was immediate,” Mann wrote in the journal article. “The impact of the terrorist atrocities was to send the local Jewish communities into a state of traumatic stress.”
Mental-health professionals at the Jewish Action for Mental Health, which Mann chairs, “quickly became burned out” by soaring demands following the attack, “not just to provide therapy but to speak at events, hold Zoom sessions and even to offer Zoom support to the traumatized in Israel,” she wrote. “When desperate people look to us to make them better and we can’t take away the pain, that is tough—when this happens at a mass level for so long, it can become unbearable.”
“I hope that no community in the UK ever needs to benefit from what we have learnt about mass trauma response—but if they do, we are ready to help,” Mann concluded.
Although Mann’s article noted the trauma many Muslims experience due to “the distressing deaths of Gazans caught in the crossfire in the war against Hamas,” the trade association “decided not to publish the piece over a concern around sensitivities relating to the topic,” it stated in its apology. “On reflection, this was the wrong decision.”
No explanation, accountability
“We’re truly shocked and saddened by the horrific events in Israel and Gaza. Our thoughts are with all those affected by this, particularly families who have lost loved ones,” the association wrote in its apology.
The group noted that it is important to “listen and learn when we make mistakes, so that we can do better for our members, their clients and the profession” and it noted “the impact the situation in Israel and Gaza is having on communities in the UK.”
“Dr. Mann’s article is a powerful insight into important work being carried out to support the Jewish community with trauma and deserves to be shared publicly,” it added.
Mann, who has penned regular columns for the journal for the past decade, had called the group’s decision to publish the piece an “important victory against a trend for de-platforming the Jewish experience.”
Jewish Action for Mental Health, a registered UK charity, recently launched a new center to help communities handle the psychological impact of “mass trauma” events.
JNS asked the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy to elaborate on the “sensitivities relating to the topic” that it said led it to scrap the article and what, if anything, it is doing to ensure it doesn’t repeat the mistake. The group declined to comment. “We don’t have anything further to add to our original statement,” it told JNS.
Isobel Carter, a spokeswoman for the London-based Campaign Against Antisemitism told JNS that it welcomes the group’s apology, but “obviously the article should never have been blocked in the first place.”
“We have observed an alarming surge in antisemitism in all aspects of life after the brutal attack carried out by Hamas on Oct. 7,” Carter said. “Safeguarding Jewish mental health is more important now than ever. Finding expressions of Jewish trauma to be ‘insensitive’ is itself antisemitic and has no place in a tolerant society.”
Ed Horwich, CEO of Jewish Small Communities Network, which serves some 55,000 people—roughly 20% of British Jews—in 100 Jewish communities in 72 towns, told JNS that the article’s initial removal “seemed to indicate that the organization’s decision-making process was not fit for purpose.”
It appeared to be an “ill-considered, knee-jerk reaction,” Horwich said. “It also comes across as a failure to follow their own counseling methodologies in how to approach an issue when a question is posed.”
“In addition to the apology they have published, it would be good to have a statement from them saying what process they have put in place to prevent such a thing from happening in the future,” he added. “Many people ‘rush to do the right thing’ and in doing so thoughtlessly cause greater harm. The BACP would hardly be the only ones to have fallen into this trap.”
A former BBC Radio broadcaster, Horwich also suggested that “the extreme rhetoric repeated endlessly by some media outlets and fed constantly through algorithms in social media,” may have made it easier for the group “to fall into this trap.”
The incident reflects a wider reckoning across British society, he thinks.
“When it comes down to it, antisemitism is not a Jewish problem, it is a problem of society,” Horwich said. “It is a failure of the society we live in when antisemitism is not recognized as something that needs to be dealt with.”