In other, more developed countries, having a therapist is as common as having a dentist or a physical trainer. Mental health is, after all, as (or even more) important than one’s physical health, ain’t I right?
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in Egypt. Moreover, mental institutions are referred to as “Mostashfa Elmaganin” because apparently, in Egypt, having a mental illness labels you as cray cray. In our culture, seeing a therapist automatically means you’re abnormal or a weirdo who is trying to fit in by seeking help.
Egypt’s logic: Got a problem? Deal with it on your own or you don’t have to deal with it, but keep it to yourself. Got unresolved feelings about your parents’ divorce? Sweep them under the rug, and never speak about them. You can try to speak about it with a friend, but most likely, they’ll either judge you or give you the old, “I understand how you feel,” or “Ma3lsih” … So why bother?
Imagine a guy who is crushing on you when he finds out you see a psychiatrist!
Why is there this stigma about people going to see a therapist? There isn’t one for going to a doctor or to physical therapy. Why are people so scared to talk about what goes on in their head? The ignorance about mental health issues that continues to exist among otherwise educated people is baffling. In today’s modern world, many of yesterday’s taboos have become normal—yet therapy is a big no-no.
Sadly, this misconception our society has lead to an internalized stigma…self-shame. This makes it all the more devastating. This can make someone going through anxiety twice as anxious, and one with a minor depression developing a major one. Many times, it is the self-shame that stops people from acknowledging psychological problems and seeking treatment. They think it’s like admitting that they are weak or damaged in some sort of way. Therefore, most go undiagnosed and, consequently, untreated.
Among others, depression continues to be one of the most socially undesirable mental health issues in Egypt. The average Egyptian views it as a weakness. “Just get over it, and move on”. They think you’re just exaggerating. This is actually very ironic, given that by the year 2020, depression will be the second most common health problem in the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If that the case, a lot of those who experience depression will not be treated unless we change our views. But where do we start?
Wrong Titled Disorders
Since we are a society so attached to the media, why not take advantage of that opportunity to educate people? We’re obsessed with shows like Criminal Minds, which perpetuate the stereotype of schizophrenia as a violent disorder. How about we have more intelligent shows that humanize mental health issues? Another area we can start with is our educational system. We joke about having OCD when we like things a certain way, and we call each other bipolar for being moody. But do we truly understand the symptoms and treatments of these mental disorders? Not likely….because we weren’t educated about them properly in school.
But before we begin trying to change the masses, let’s first look at ourselves and our own core beliefs and biases. We may be unknowingly prolonging this flawed belief about seeking help for psychological issues or going to a therapist in general. To change others’ minds, we must first change our own.
By: Hana Kotb