Senior Staff Writer
On World Health Day, April 7, Ghassan Hasbani, the Health Minister and deputy prime minister, announced the coverage of mental health by the Ministry of Health in hospitals and centers across Lebanon.This is the most noticeable step towards promoting mental health as an issue worthy of further discussion in the public sphere in Lebanon.
Mental health has long been an issue shrouded with stigma in our region of the world. In a country like Lebanon, people who suffer from mental health problems might refrain from seeking help in fear of judgment. Others find themselves helpless due to insufficient representation and coverage.
Statistics have shown that one in four Lebanese people will suffer from a mental illness at one point during their lifetime, as retrieved from Embrace Fund, a non-profit organization founded in 2013 at AUB’s Department of Psychiatry with a goal of raising awareness about mental illness in a misinformed country, amongst many others.
Hasbani’s announcement came as part of an event held in the Grand Serail in Beirut where he discussed mental health and how it is treated in the country, considering that mental health has been largely uncovered by insurance companies in Lebanon.
Not only did the event uncover the future coverage plans, but Hasbani also announced that eight health institutes will be opened by the ministry to provide better mental health services by trained professionals in the field. Considering that this area of healthcare has previously been lacking, both in terms of personnel and facilities, this step will greatly benefit all those dealing with mental illnesses.
“One in every four people will suffer from mental disturbances in a lifetime,” explained Hasbani. “Every one of us is vulnerable to these [mental disturbances], and there isn’t enough help available at the moment. Nine out of ten people who do have mental issues in Lebanon cannot reach sufficient help,” as quoted in the Daily Star.
The main point here is that people who suffer from mental illness often do not seek help. With such initiatives underway, patients will feel more comfortable confronting their mental health problems in a medical milieu that is more equipped and ready to accommodate them.
This initiative to treat mental illness as equivalent to physical illness promotes the acceptance of mental illness as a treatable health issue.
Hasbani then went on to further emphasize the importance of such a step in a country that has witnessed multiple events that makes its citizens more prone to mental health problems.
“This is a huge step that will help many people who have a mental health issue and cannot get the treatment,” said Yassmin Smaili, a psychology student and president of the Psychology Student Society.
“It will hopefully contribute largely to the destigmatization of mental disorders, which is a big issue we have here in Lebanon. We are looking forward to the changes that this will bring, and happy to see that things are getting better in relation to mental health care in Lebanon,” she then added.
The minister remains optimistic that with the ministry’s future plan, more people will seek help and accept treatment, even those who cannot afford to.