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‘We need to talk about mental health in Jordan’

Local NGO launches awareness campaign on mental illness

By Camille Dupire - Dec 10,2017 - Last updated at Dec 10,2017

AMMAN — “We want to start the mental health conversation in Jordan,” said Ala Abojaradeh, the director of the Jordan Chapter of Life in My Days (LIMD), a social change platform that seeks to raise awareness on mental health issues.

“Nowadays, we are seeing a greater demand for mental health services and support in the Jordanian society. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding mental illness makes it almost impossible for individuals to seek treatment at the onset of their disease,” Abojaradeh said, stressing the devastating consequences for patients who end up seeking treatment once their illness has become severe, when they reach out at all. 

LIMD Jordan recently launched the “Can We Talk?” campaign, aimed at spreading knowledge and triggering discussion on mental illness, and its impact on the lives of individuals and the community.

“Mental health is a topic that is hidden in our society, and the time has come to start talking,” said Abojaradeh, who teamed up with a few medical students at the University of Jordan to start the LIMD Jordan Chapter, which has since been joined by volunteers from various universities across the Kingdom.

In 2008, Jordan was identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a country in need of “intense support” for strengthening the mental health system. 

While data on mental health issues in the Kingdom remain scarce, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) recently said that 104 people committed suicide since the start of 2017, while 388 attempted to, a sharp rise from the 39 suicides recorded in 2011, according to the CID

For Zahra (name was changed to protect the respondent’s privacy), such a campaign is “badly needed”. The 28-year-old suffers from chronic depression and has been prescribed anti-depressants regularly over the past five years. 

“Mental health awareness is still undervalued in Jordan. If it weren’t for my family being doctors and healthcare professionals, I probably would have never been treated and my state would have been much worse,” she told The Jordan Times.

Aiming to combat the stigma related to mental health and foster a more understanding and accepting environment for people suffering from mental illnesses, “Can We talk?” has been organising various events to spread knowledge on the daily challenges faced by people with mental health issues, including abuse, trauma, social injustices, among others, according to a LIMD Jordan statement.

Through workshops, exhibitions and panel discussions conducted by specialists, the NGO, which operates under the umbrella of the Hikaya Centre for Community Development, has been working to increase accurate awareness and establish support networks around the community. 

“We also provide tools to facilitate healing. We try to connect individuals and communities with resources for the future and offer them safe spaces where they can exchange on those difficult topics,” Abojaradeh said, noting that they plan to start a support network for university students.

 “The campaign aims to start conversations in the public space, but also to create the foundation necessary to sustain dialogues and programmes after the campaign is over,” Abojaradeh told The Jordan Times.

 

According to the WHO’s latest figures, one in four individuals (over 450 million people) suffer from mental disorders globally, two thirds of whom do not seek help due to lack of awareness and lack of resources.

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