Despite the significant strides activists have achieved, mental illness patients continue to face stigma in the Arab world.
The topic of mental health is inadequately discussed in the region and is still subject to social restrictions as well as misconceptions. Patients might not be informed enough to identify the problem, and even when they are, they're rarely encouraged to seek professional help.
To shed light on the gravity of the situation from the perspective of mental health patients themselves, Dubai-based The Lighthouse Center for Well-Being partnered up with McCann Health (a healthcare communications agency) to launch a book compiling quotes and illustrations depicting the struggles of some patients.
According to The Lighthouse Center, a community mental health and wellness clinic, anxiety and depression are among the top three causes of ill health in the UAE. Nearly 4 percent of the population is estimated to be clinically depressed, while mild depression is estimated to affect up to 15 percent of the population.
The center also raises awareness on workplace-related mental health issues in the country, often caused by financial pressures, lack of work-life balance, along with social pressures. This comes as 60 percent of UAE employees who identified as stressed said their job is the main cause.
In light of the above, the center sought to call attention to the status of mental health in the nation, particularly that of employees, through a book titled unspoken, uae.
The book is a selection of thoughts and feelings shared by the clinic's patients, who had not previously opened up about their problems. The patients' quotes are accompanied by expressive visual illustrations created by 20 artists from across the region.
From feelings of loneliness and self-doubt, to society's crippling expectations and social media deception, unspoken, uae gives first-hand insight into the problems burdening those suffering from mental health illnesses.
The book is being circulated across companies in the UAE, and a PDF version can be found online.
Here are some quotes and illustrations from the book:
1. "I am around people all the time, yet I feel so lonely."
2. "I don't want anyone to think I'm weak, so I keep putting up another front."
3. "I am a liar. I lie. I lie all the time about how I feel."
4. "You try to open a door, but find yourself stuck in the same room that you are trying to run away from."
5. "I don't want to get married, but I also don't want to be seen as incomplete."
6. "I feel empty all the time."
7. "I am afraid I will never live up to society's expectations."
8. "Sleep is the best part of my day because I can feel nothing."
9. "My biggest fear is that eventually people will see me the way I see myself."
10. "Always the ugly friend."
The book urges readers to reach out for help
Towards the end of the book, the clinic calls upon readers to speak up about their struggles and reach out for professional help.
"All the quotes that you have read in this book are the real words of people who have been fighting life's everyday challenges. And by having an open and honest dialogue with those who have wanted to listen and support, things have gotten better. So, if you have related to some of the feelings and emotions in this book or are feeling like you need to talk, please remember you are not alone."
If you live in the UAE and the above message resonates with you, the specialists at The Lighthouse Center offer a wide range of services to guide you towards recovery and overall well-being.
It is worth noting that many insurance companies in the UAE cover psychological and psychiatric care, according to Gulf News.