North African and Middle Eastern countries are all but known for the quality and numbers of their mental health institutions. Many members of Arab societies suffer from severe emotional disorders alongside other mental traumas, but only a very small portion of the afflicted speak out or seek medical help or assistance. In some cases, such disorders are genetically transmitted meaning that it eventually leads into an endless cycle of psychological torment.
It is important to keep in mind that mental illnesses cannot be generalized, even if symptoms are very well the same, they only serve as a forewarning. Each and every single subject experiences the matter on a personal scale and their own way. The manifestations of any particular disturbance varies within the culture from which it appears.
Wistfully, the aid attempted to be given in throughout the MENA regions is a mere copy of those used within Western countries, pale and bland copy of their settings which tend to be useless in terms of application and results. The reason behind the tremendous success of said therapies in Western countries is that they were built alongside observance and analysis sequences in order to determine the sources and causes of the disorders and cure it from its roots, something which we have yet to tend to. Our lack of information and knowledge on the subject is our own withering impediment in the matter.
“Everywhere you look, you’ll find depression,” said Justin Thomas, an associate professor in psychology at Zayed University, Abu Dhabi, whose research has focused on how psychological well-being is influenced by culture. The statistics are quite harrowing. A 2009 study screened 1,552 adolescents in Saudi Arabia and found the most common mental health problem was anxiety. A 2005 study concluded that sixteen percent of Lebanese adolescents had suicidal thoughts. With that being said, the statistics provided are only traced to be from Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. They stand as the few countries that even bother to tackle the issue and promote the matter as a real problem by improving their healthcare system and psychological evaluations through mental health centers, thus understanding that they represent a key to the stability and flourishing of psychological haleness.
North African and Middle Eastern countries share a profound attachment to cultural traditions and family values, making them the main pillars of their societies. Simultaneously, they act as part of why mental disorders are prevalent in the region.
The strong emotional link that ties people to their relatives may be fueling their insecurities. Children are observed to feel guilt in response to the constant criticism they face on a daily basis at home regarding their personal lives and achievements. In our societies, protesting or declining against their will is considered a colossal act of disobedience that attracts negative attention and remarks. Our lives are constantly being commented upon and judged, declaring the best way to live it and what should and shouldn’t be done. This constant pressure in the very core of one’s personal space can be very tiring, to the point where a zone of intimacy loses all its definition.
Globalization and social media have granted us the access to view oversea events and lifestyles, thus allowing the Western behaviors and consumption manners to slowly creep into our own society giving us a false view of a perfect life that we cannot have, nor aspire to reach. We find ourselves trapped between the thin wall of ancestral tradition and the thickness of modernization as we question ourselves on where we could have possibly gone wrong in a world solemnly driven by the need of production and consumption. The perpetual weight of a stranger’s opinion over a daily basis burdens us even further.
We shouldn’t stop ourselves from speaking out on matters like this because we’re not certified psychologists, for example. We shouldn’t restrain ourselves from having discussions and crossing the lines that we consider “taboo” in order to aspire to the greater good. From the darkest of ages to the corners of history, communication and understanding have and always will be the key to approach and solve any matter of difficulty. This applies to this epidemic as well. So, speak out! The world needs it.
Kamélia Bourahla is a 19-year-old Business school student from Algeria. She’s an aspiring writer, having fallen in love with books & arts at a very young age. She is also Unootha’s Art Editor.