ood health is not merely an absence of physical ailments but is a physical, mental and social state of well-being (World Health Organization WHO, 2001, p. 7). Mental health plays a fundamental role for an individual to lead a fulfilling life as it can determine one’s ability to form relationships, to work, or even to contribute to society.
Any disturbances to a person’s mental well-being can compromise these abilities.Without proper care people with severe mental health disordersthereforecannot function as productive members of a society.Mental disorders are a prevalent and common issue today since it could happen to any individual from all walks of life whether they suffer from depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorders.
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In response, many nations provide access to mental health care that promotes mental well-being, as well as services that provide treatment for people with mental health problems or disorders. After engaging in a conversation with my friend the other day, she opened up to me out about her struggle with anxiety. It has taken my friend nearly 2 years after many countless doctor visits to be diagnosed and treated with a mental illness. This is because, in the UAE, the GCC, and the Arab world mental health is still a taboo and stigmatized. There is three main type of stigma surrounding mental illnesses such as social stigmatization, self-stigmatization, and treatment stigmatization that may be significant in explaining a set of mechanisms that facilitate or hinder the seeking of psychological help in the region.First of all, Self-stigmatization is a form of stigma towards mental health issues that might ultimately influence a patient decision to disclose any information and to seek any professional help in the Middle East. Many people who suffer from a mental health issue deal with the burden of managing their symptoms and the same time deal with managing the generalizations or the stereotypes made by others.
People might internalize all those stereotypes and attitudes regarding mental illnesses andself-stigmatize their condition. Self-stigma is defined as a negative attitude towards a mental illness and its treatment that are held The stigma of mental health issues in the Middle East 3by the individual with the stigmatized condition. This stigma occurs in response to the fear of being labeledor devalued by others because of one’s mental state. The findings of the survey I conducted on a group of 65 respondents suggests that more than half of the people who might benefit from mental health services refuse to access them despite evidence that seeking treatment can help improve their symptoms just to avoid being labelled mentally ill (Alkhalifa, 2018). This is because stereotypical labels that are often associated with mental illnesses such as being dangerous or being hazardous held by the general public, might cause harm to the afflicted individual.
For instance, people may deny the existence of their condition to feel more accepted into society and not feel rejection and distant from others. Thus, it is apparent that self-stigma can directlyimpact treatment. It is to be noted that stigma attached to mental illness is not limited to the people experiencing it directly, but the stigma can also affect everything and everyone surrounding of the person with a mental illness (Goffman, 1963) Second, social stigma is structural in society and can create barriers for a person with a mental disorder. According to Ahmedani (2011), structural means that “stigma is a belief held by a large fraction of society in which persons with the stigmatized condition are less equal or are part of an inferior group”. Thus, stigma is embedded into the social framework where it can be determined by one’s culture and tradition. In an analysis based on 360 surveys from an Arab-Muslim population indicated that “favorable or unfavorable attitudes toward seeking formal mental health services are most likely to be affected by cultural and traditional beliefs about mental health policy”(Aloud, 204). Culture acts as a means of social control through the provision of a set of rules, norms, and expectations to be followed by the individual families in the Arab society plays an integral role in the culture in terms of representing the mental health development, and behavior of family members.
As previously mentioned by Goffman, stigma affects everything and everyone surrounding the person with The stigma of mental health issues in the Middle East 4the mental illness. This means that if a family member is sick, all the remaining members will also be infected. Therefore, if a person develops mental health problems they can destroy a family’s image and reputation. People’s chances and prospects of marriage can also be affected as the result of the stigma attached to mental illness. This can lead to avoidance in seeking help or the concealment of issues.
Instead, patients may seek help from family members or traditional healers to help protect their family’s reputation in order to avoid disclosing any personal concerns (Brinson ; Al-amri, 2006, p. 496-498). After looking at the results for my survey, the findings show that the majority of people are neutral when it comes to being advised by a close relative or friend rather than by a mental health professional. This means that the majority of people agree with going to close relatives and friends as well agree with going to mental health professionals for help in dealing with their own psychological problems. Despite the results in the survey, stigmatization towards mental health treatment may act as a barrier for some patients to seek help in the region. Most importantly, stigmatization towards mental health treatment creates barriers for the provision of mental health care in the Middle East.
As a result of the misconceptions and religious cultural beliefs held by the majority of Arab communities, the people have developed insufficient knowledge about mental health problems. This because Arab patients often define their mental illness in somatic terms to avoid stigmatization. Somatization is the expression of an emotional or mental issue whether it stress, anger, or sadness in terms of physical symptoms. (Sayed, 2012, pg. 388-389).
For example, Nasir and Al-Qutob (2005, pp. 127-129) study report that mental health patients in Jordan would visit the psychiatrists complaining about physical illnesses, However when the psychiatrists would perform various tests on the patient the result reports that they are normal. This study explains how the lack of attention given to one’s mental health within these communities means that fewer people in the Middle East seek and receive help for their mental suffering. This is because increased The stigma of mental health issues in the Middle East 5awareness of mental health issues is a pre-exquisite to greater utilization and acceptability of mental health interventions and knowing what actions could be taken for possible treatments (Jorm, 2012, pp.
231-233). In conclusion, because in the UAE, the GCC, and the Arab world mental health is still a taboo and stigmatized. There is three main type of stigma surrounding mental illnesses such as social stigmatization, self-stigmatization, and treatment stigmatization that explain why people do not seek help in dealing with a mental health issue. This is because stigma in its most progressive structures lead to the exclusion of a person from several circles of social functioning bringing feelings of guilt, shame, inferiority, and concealment.
But there is hope. In the Middle East, few countries have recently introduced mental health campaigns such as the Mind Me Campaign in Kuwait