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Pay more attention to mental health

Oct 21,2018 - Last updated at Oct 21,2018

Jordan celebrated the World Mental Health Day on October 10 with little fanfare. Jordan does not even have official data on mental illness in the country, even though it is quite widespread, especially among certain vulnerable groups of people, including refugees and economically disadvantaged people.

The idea behind the commemoration of the day is to raise awareness about the gravity of mental health and prevent it from being viewed as a taboo with humiliating stigma attached to it. Mental health problems remain, therefore, unreported and worse until untreated. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and other humanitarian medical NGOs report that the problem is particularly acute among the Syrian refugees in the north of the country, where depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders are rampant among them.

The problem is also quite widespread among many other groups of people in the country but unfortunately goes unnoticed or ignored. According to The World Health Organisation, a total of 450 million people worldwide suffer from one form of mental disorder, while two thirds of the victims do not seek help and their grave mental health problems go untreated or even accounted for.

This is a serious challenge to most countries, if not all. The best evidence that Jordan is also not immune to this health threat is the high rate of suicide. According to the Criminal Investigation Department, a total of 130 suicides occurred in 2017; an 8.3 per cent increase over 2016, no doubt because of poverty and stressful living conditions.

Women are particularly vulnerable as many live in stressful situations because of discrimination and the denial of their equal rights, especially when they enter into a marriage on unequal terms.

Economic hardships on the top of other conditions that contribute to the problem, exacerbate the disease and push many people to the edge. 

Our authorities must pay more attention to mental illness as it has an enormous cost if left untreated. The first step is to stop denial and acknowledge that many people have this problem. The sooner this is done the better, especially for the many people who suffer from it stoically.

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