‘Understand, listen, and speak’

Reem Leila , Tuesday 7 Feb 2023

Removing the stigma surrounding mental illness in Egypt is the aim of a protocol signed earlier this week.

The National Council for Women (NCW)
The National Council for Women (NCW)


The National Council for Women (NCW) and the ministries of health and population and youth and sports signed a protocol with the newly launched Fahim Foundation for Mental Health Support.

The protocol aims at improving mental health clinics and hospitals, encouraging young Egyptian psychiatrists to train under the supervision of experienced foreign doctors, raising awareness among youth and families about the different kinds of mental illness, and preparing psychology graduates of the Faculty of Arts to work in the Health Ministry.

Fahim Foundation, headed by former minister of Emigration and Egyptian Expatriate Affairs Nabila Makram aims at lifting the stigma of mental illness by raising awareness through lectures, workshops, media campaigns, and other outreach initiatives under the foundation’s slogan “Understand, listen, and speak”.

According to Makram, recent studies show that 25 per cent of individuals globally are living with a mental disorder. In Egypt, the overall prevalence of a mental disorder was estimated at 16.93 per cent. The main problems were mood and anxiety disorders and bipolar and borderline personality disorders.

NCW President Maya Morsi noted that the council will cooperate with the foundation through its branches in the governorates to provide psychological support to all individuals in cooperation with a group of psychiatrists.  

“The council via all its branches all over the country will conduct several workshops to increase people’s awareness about mental health and the nature of mental illness and means of supporting people suffering from such illnesses as well as their families, especially mothers,” Morsi said.

Morsi pointed to hotline 16328 of the Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Secretariat of the Ministry of Health in helping to identify mental disorders and how to deal with them.

“Through our complaint office, we facilitate the process for parents who have a son or daughter suffering from any mental illness to easily reach the Health Ministry’s secretariat of mental health and addiction treatment. The council follows up with them and provides them with the support they need,” Morsi added.

She noted it was essential to provide psychological and social support to women, whether they or any of their family members are suffering from mental illness, to enable them to achieve their goals according to their potential.

“The council would also help them deal with life stresses by providing qualified specialists and psychiatrists who are well trained in educating women and families about mental illness, its dangers and methods of treatment in a safe environment that preserves their dignity with complete confidentiality,” Morsi said.

Rania Mahmoud, mother of an 18-year-old suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD), told Al-Ahram Weekly that after her divorce she started noticing drastic changes in her daughter’s behaviour. “She became very disobedient, aggressive, and rude. I suffered from her attitude for years and hid her from my friends and parents so they wouldn’t see the changes in her. At the beginning, I thought she was ill-mannered and misbehaving until a friend advised me to take her to a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with BPD,” Mahmoud said.

Mahmoud’s daughter was kept in a mental health care facility for three months after they discovered she was on drugs.

“I was ashamed of my daughter and her behaviour until her psychiatrist told me that all the disorders which my daughter had been suffering from will end after being medically and psychologically treated. Thank God, after two years of regular psychological sessions along with medical treatment, my daughter is now back to normal, even better. I am so proud of her,” said Mahmoud.

“Mental illness is not a stigma but rather a disease like all physical diseases that need treatment. Mental disorders are affected by genetic and environmental factors,” Mona Abdel-Maqsoud, secretary-general of the Health Ministry’s secretariat for mental health and addiction treatment, said on the protocol signing.

According to Abdel-Maqsoud, there are several types of mental illness, from social anxiety to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and schizophrenia. “Our inclusive moral is that no illness, however debilitating, is too taboo to talk about.”

* A version of this article appears in print in the 9 February, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

Search Keywords:
Short link: