Mental Health Issues

Mental Health Issues





Mental Health Issues

People take mental health care differently, depending on the level of information that they have concerning it. Some people do not have adequate knowledge of what mental healthcare entails and as such stigmatize the condition. This discourages people with mental health problems to seek help. Those who suffer from mental health do not want others to know about them because they feel that they will be discriminated and treated differently. This leads to worsening of the conditions of the patients, and it increases the number of people who suffer from mental health problems. More awareness of mental health issues will erode this stigmatization. Mental health problems affect worker productivity. People with mental problems are not as productive as healthy individuals are. They report greater absenteeism, more accidents at the workplace, and contribute to high staff turnover. Issues of mental health are also considered a burden because of associated conditions. Mental health problems are a leading cause of disability (WHO, 2000). In addition, people with untreated mental health conditions are highly likely to commit suicide, abuse drugs and other substances and drop out of school (National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention, 2012). These problems illustrate the need to take a keen interest in mental health problems.

Different countries and regions of the world have dissimilar approaches to mental health. Some countries such as the US and Britain have developed policies and laws that are intended to benefit people with mental health issues. They dedicate a portion of their national health budget to handle mental health problems and provide for such conditions in health insurance. In addition, governments in such countries require employers to take an active role to help employees manage their mental health problems. Consequently, some organizations provide counseling services for people suffering from depression and require employees to seek treatment if they have any mental health condition (WHO, 2000). However, other countries do not have data on mental health, and no policies on how to deal with it. They lack awareness of how much mental conditions affect the people, and have not provided for it in their budgets. Other countries allocate a very small amount of their budget to mental healthcare. Such is the situation in many Arab countries. The region has one of the world’s highest populations and many countries differ economically and in the provision of healthcare. However, many Arab countries have not focused on providing health services to people with mental problems. Some countries do not have mental health laws or policies (Al-Krenawi, 2005).

Many countries in the Arab region suffer from internal and regional conflicts, wars, and terrorism. These factors are leading causes of mental disorders (Adams, 2011; Okasha et al., 2012). People in such countries live in fear, uncertainty and experience stress and trauma because of the conflicts. In addition, some of the people continue holding on to their traditional beliefs, which prevent them from seeking help. Some people believe that people with mental disorders are possessed, or that they are under the impact of sorcery or an evil eye, and they do not see the need of professional treatment. Instead, they result to consulting traditional healers, who do not have adequate knowledge to help them with their problems. Some of the traditional healers combine their practice with religion, and this is appealing to many people, who have strong religious backgrounds. Some people prefer traditional healers because they deal with the unknown and the mystical. The general perception is that mental disorders are not natural, and they therefore, do not require natural treatment (Okasha et al., 2012).

Arab countries are different, and they each experience dissimilar mental health challenges. UAE is one of the top countries in delivering healthcare services, but it devotes a very little amount of the health budget to mental health. Many people in the country consider mental disorders as a taboo topic, and tend to believe that these are contagious. However, recent events in the country have forced health practitioners and the government to take an active role towards increasing awareness of mental health. In 2010, there was a high suicide rate in the country. Immigrant workers from India committed suicide as a way of dealing with depression and anxiety caused by the social abuse. This highlighted the need of providing mental health services to the people working in the country (Butcher, 2013).

Lebanon started providing free mental health services to adults after realizing that many of them, including refugees from surrounding warring countries, suffered from different mental conditions (Adams, 2011). Egypt has mental health policies and trained psychiatrists and psychiatrist-nurses to help people with these conditions. It uses different forms of treatment when helping the patients. However, most of these treatments incorporate cultural and religious considerations. Many people oppose the idea of institutionalizing patients. There are strong family connections, which require members to take care of patients with mental disorders. Although this provides a good support system, it can also be detrimental because the family members do not have the required knowledge and skills needed to take care of the patients. Like other Arab nations, Egypt believes in traditional healers and will often consult them in matters relating to mental health (Okasha, 2004).

Arabs in different countries hold on to their beliefs and cultures. People from Arab countries who suffer from mental disorders while residing in foreign countries do not take advantage of the mental health services available. In Israel, the Arab-Israeli women are highly focused on their family honor and subordinate position, and this prevents them from seeking treatment from mental health professionals. They have the same feelings of shame that women in Arab countries have (Levav et al., 2007). Arabs living in Australia do not take advantage of the community mental health resources to help them deal with mental problems. Although they visit psychiatric hospitals, they do not volunteer to do so. This is because many Arabs view mental disorders as a cause of shame to the family and community. In addition, family members show emotional distress when one of them suffers from a mental disorder. Responsibility of seeking help for mental health problems comes from the male members of the immediate family or the elders of the extended family. Many Arabs do not abandon their culture, beliefs and religion when they go to other countries (Amdur, 2008).

Religion plays a role in the delivery of mental health services, in many Arab countries. It can have both positive and negative effect depending on how people take it. Many Arabs are religious people, and they will often visit their religious healer before seeking help elsewhere. People with mental disorders visit the religious or traditional healer so that he can remove the evil eye that is causing their problem. Some people believe that mental disorders are caused by an evil spirit, and consider the religious healer the most appropriate person to deal with the problem. This can have negative consequences because religious leaders do not have the required knowledge to handle mental disorder. They cannot perform the right diagnosis or prescribe an effective treatment. Some family members accompany patients to the religious healer to prevent him or her from revealing information about the kin to the cleric. They do not consider it appropriate for an outsider to learn about family problems. In such cases, even the little therapeutic effect that such treatments have is ineffective because the patient cannot tell the healer the factors that may be contributing to his disorder (Sayed, 2003). Religion also plays a positive role. Many Arabs are Muslims, and they have a strong attachment to their religion. Religion plays a positive role in preventing incidences such as suicide among patients with mental disorders. It acts as a support system and a source of comfort to the people.

Patients’ genders determine the treatment they receive. Many Arab countries are patriarchal. Women take on many roles and the increase in responsibilities can contribute to mental disorders. Many divorced women suffer emotionally and develop conditions such as depression. Their condition intensifies because of the social stigma they face in their marriages. Married Arab women will often choose to endure emotional pain in their homes rather than face the social stigma associated with divorce. In addition, women fear losing their children, which happens if they opt for divorce. Men are powerful and have much influence. They are granted custody of children in case of a divorce. Because of this, some of them become stressed, anxious or develop depression. Women suffer a lot because of the stigma associated with mental health services. Seeking mental help can increase a woman’s chances of divorce. Some men may use this as an excuse not to marry the woman. Other men use it as an excuse to get a second wife, an action which some Arab women do not approve (Al-Krenawi & Graham, 2000). Domestic violence, which happens to many Arab women, is a major cause of mental disorders. However, people consider it a private matter, and rarely take any measures to prevent it. Women facing domestic violence in Arab countries rarely report such incidences because they fear being victimized. Those who experience such violence suffer from anxiety, mood swings, eating, obsessive compulsive, multiple personality, and posttraumatic stress disorders (Afifi, 2007).

Families act as social support systems, but can also hinder the treatment process. Arab cultures are collective rather than individualistic, and they value the role of the immediate and extended family. A person’s health becomes a problem for the entire family, and he/she cannot make individual decisions. The family intervenes in determining the best course of action when a member has a mental disorder. Some family members intervene on behalf of the patient, and consider it normal to answer questions directed at the client. They may insist and require the client not to answer questions they consider embarrassing (Al-Krenawi & Graham, 2000). Despite this interference, family members are a positive influence on the patient because they are willing to ensure that they offer the necessary support.

Many Arabs find mental health problems stigmatizing and will not consider marital therapies, psychological intervention or psychiatric help because of the shame that this could have. People in the Arab countries have found ways of avoiding the stigma attached to mental health. Patients with mental disorders describe their condition in terms of the symptoms they have rather than the condition itself. In addition, they seek help from general physicians and do not go to specialists such as psychiatrists and therapists for their condition (Al-Krenawi & Graham, 2000).

Western and Arab countries approach mental health in different ways. Culture is a key determinant of how people in the different regions approach mental issues. Culture and religion influence Arabs, and determine the actions and decisions they make concerning different issues. Hence, what might seem as a natural and common occurrence in western countries may be considered a taboo or a topic to be approached cautiously in Arab nations. The individualistic nature of many western countries makes it possible for patients to seek and receive treatments. Doctors are able to use the most suitable method to treat the patient. However, this is not the case in Arab countries, where the doctors also have to deal with the patients’ families. The collective cultures in many of these countries mean that other family members are involved in the treatment and recovery process of the patients. The other difference in the way western and Arab countries approach mental health concerns religion. Many people in western countries trust medical professions with their problems, but this is not the case in Arab countries.

Religion is an essential part of people’s lives, and people see it not only as a source of support, but also as a way of obtaining the knowledge they need. To some people, only religion can explain the cause and treatment of mental disorders. Consequently, even if they seek other treatment, they will find the need to incorporate religion by visiting spiritual or traditional healers. Arabs tend to focus on forming relationships in an effort to build trust with the doctors. They want to talk to someone they can trust about the problems they have. Conversely, western professionals often use an impersonal approach and will rarely involve themselves with the personal lives of their patients (Al-Krenawi & Graham, 2000).

Although there is a general effort to recognize mental health in many countries, many people are ignorant about the issue. The level of awareness in a country determines the approach that it will use to address mental health concerns. There is greater awareness of mental health disorders in western countries, and the respective governments have set mental health policies and legislation. Many people in Arab countries lack awareness of mental health issues. They are often guided by the cultural and religious assumptions, which regard mental disorders as taboos, and a cause of shame for the families and communities. Because of this, stigmatization is common, and people are reluctant to seek treatment. However, greater awareness concerning mental disorders is gradually changing people’s beliefs. People are beginning to seek help, but they are still bound by their cultural and religious beliefs.







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Al-Krenawi A. (2005). Mental health practice in Arab countries. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 18, 560–564

Al-Krenawi A., & Graham, R. J. (2000). Culturally sensitive social work practice with Arab clients in mental health settings. Retrieved from

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Levav, I., Al-Krenawi, A., Ifrah, A., Geraisy, N., Grinshpoon, A., Khwaled, R., & Levinson, D. (2007). Common mental disorders among Arab-Israelis: Findings from the Israel national health survey. Psychiatry Relational Science, 44 (2), 104-113

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Okasha, A., Karam, E., & Okasha, T. (2012). Mental health services in the Arab world. World Psychiatry, 11 (1), 52-54

Sayed, A. M. (2003). Conceptualization of mental illness within Arab cultures: Meeting challenges in cross-cultural settings. Social Behavior and Personality, 31 (4), 333-342

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