For years, mental health has been accompanied by social stigma, all over the world. In the Arab world specifically, the topic was unheard of, until recent years. If you have a problem and felt like you might need therapy, it was preferable to keep it to yourself, to save yourself the hassle of explaining, the cruelty of bullying, and the headache of being misunderstood.
However, this was never a solution. The key to solving a problem is admitting its presence. Mental disorders are serious, and if they’re not properly addressed, there can be grave consequences.
Whenever a problem is associated with shame or taboo in any way, it is more likely to be kept a secret. And anything that is not talked about, will most probably stay unsolved. With time, this has been one of the contributing factors to the spread of mental illness in the region, with no one addressing it.
In this part of the world, mental health was often associated with insanity, or “going nuts”, and more traditionally, that they were possessed. This was one of the main reasons for the stigma surrounding it, after all, who would want to be ridiculed or labeled as someone who lost their mind or was possessed by an evil spirit? It’s exactly this lack of awareness and misunderstanding that leads people to seek out treatment very late, often too late, or not at all.
And with our 24/7 exposure to other people’s lives on social media, creating a constant strive for perfection, who isn’t suffering from a mental health problem, even if it’s a minor one.
But fortunately, this is slowly changing. Medical professionals have started holding talks and discussions at schools and universities, to raise awareness on the “normality” of having a mental health disorder, and the importance of reaching out for professional help.
Perhaps it’s time to label things the way they are; mental illness is an illness that needs treatment, just like any other. If you have a toothache, do you not go to the dentist?
There is no harm in reaching out because there is nothing to be ashamed of in knowing that you’re suffering from an issue and need help.