Today, October 10th, is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as World Mental Health Day. This year’s theme is “Dignity in Mental Health” and we’re helping raise awareness for people with mental health conditions so that they can live with dignity.
According to WHO, people living with mental health conditions are often “discriminated against, stigmatized and marginalized” and are also sometimes “subject to emotional and physical abuse in both mental health facilities and the community.” This is especially the case in the Middle East and in Palestine. A recent article from the Thomson Reuters Foundation explains how in Gaza, females are refusing mental health treatment for fear of becoming “unfit” for marriage.
According to Bassam Abu Hamad, a public health consultant at Al Quds University in Gaza, “There is a general stigma and lack of awareness around mental health. People think mental health problems are something to do with the devil and supernatural forces. They think that people with such problems have lost their minds and are crazy.” But the stigma isn’t just among the general population, even doctors in Gaza are also buying into this lie. For example, in the case of a nine-year-old girl in Gaza, her doctor said “that continuing to visit mental health services would affect her reputation and she would be stigmatised forever.”
While mental health affects both males and females, there is a much stronger resistance in seeking treatment for girls – “WHO mental health officer for Gaza, Dyaa Saymah, said part of the reason girls with mental health disorders face particular stigma is due to the misconception that mental problems are strongly hereditary.” This fear has prevented people from receiving the critical treatments and therapies they need.
After the traumatic events last summer in Gaza, people – especially children – have being suffering from “acute levels of psycho-social distress.” And The United Nations estimated that 373,000 children required specialised psychosocial support. This crisis is large-scale and communtiies cannot continue ignoring the mental health issues affecting Palestinian communities. Despite the stigma surrounding these issues, treatment and support can help guarantee that people can live healthier, happier, more productive lives.
At TYO, we choose to tackle the issue head-on with the participants of The Women’s Group. As women are the primary caregivers in Palestinian society, we believe in empowering mothers to understand the devastating impact of denying mental health treatment. We encourage mothers to think outside of their cultural stigmatizations and learn to understand the value of psychosocial interventions. And by sending a child to TYO, s/he’s guaranteed to receive high-quality psychosocial care. TYO operates stigma-free and we’re hoping to restore #dignity for mental health patients throughout Nablus.