Yesterday was #WorldMentalHealthDay, and with the way Egypt constantly belittles psychological issues, we need to talk about this. We created a captivating visual portrayal of 10 ignorant remarks that Egyptians with mental health problems are tired of hearing.
Between all the stigma and stereotypes, things mental health patients hear in Egypt are often the furthest thing from their realities. It's always been said that if you go to a 'doctor nafsi' (psychiatrist), it means you're crazy – and the definition of crazy here ranges from roaming streets in rags to pulling your hair out. There is an ignorance that surrounds the variety of mental illnesses that can plague and cripple one's life that can especially be triggered in a place like Egypt, such as anxiety and depression. Moreover, there are other conditions such as bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, or OCD, that are extremely stigamatised, leading to the marginalisation and social exclusion of patients. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights surveys done in 2004 concluded that 17 percent of adults in Egypt deal with a mental disorder, while, in 2001, it was found that 50 percent have symptoms. The same report shows that only two percent of the government expenditure on healthcare is funded to psychiatry, with only 600 psychiatrists practicing in Egypt.
We can't even say it's only the lack of healthcare, which is an undeniable problem Egyptians deal with when it comes to any illness – it is also the way healthcare functions around mental health, leading to misdiagnosis, limiting solutions the patients can seek, and psychiatrists often involving patients in experimental drugs and keeping patients for all the wrong reasons at the request of their families. At the end, it boils down to stigma of mental health in society – it is usually met by invalidations and denials of what the patient is going through and their suffering; it's often looked at as an act, or attention seeking, and – worst of all – it's left untreated. We compiled some of the common responses people hear when they are going through mental illness, and these are just a few:
Stop being a spoiled brat!
Read some Quran!
You just need to find God...
What else could you possibly want in life? (You have it all!)
Photography by @MO4Network's #MO4Productions. Photographer: Ahmed Najeeb