This article was first published on January 26, 2022 on Raseef22. An edited version is published under a republishing agreement.
To this day, and despite the piling stresses of the everyday life exacerbated by a pandemic that has affected billions around the world, visiting a psychiatrist remains widely unacceptable in the Arab world, especially among people of the Arabian Gulf, where rigid customs, traditions and beliefs continue to shape the choices of many.
Sarah, a Kuwaiti woman in her forties, has been suffering from panic attacks before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has placed emotional, psychological and mental strain on millions around the world. When she ran out of solutions, she resorted to visiting a psychiatrist, but was unable to continue her treatment as the prices of psychological counseling and treatment became unaffordable for her.
In Kuwait, the cost of one consultation starts at KWD 100 (USD 330) per hour and reaches up to KWD 200 (USD 660), sometimes even more.
This in itself is a critical factor that causes those in need of a therapist to give up on the idea. But another factor also plays an equally important role: the societal shaming that accompanies such a step, which causes many to end up fighting their own battles without professional help.
As a result, acts of violence became part of the daily news, especially in the early days of the COVID-19 imposed lockdowns. These incidents of violence, including a wife who killed her husband by smashing his head with a hammer, and numerous instances among young people that led to death in many cases, continue to this day, albeit to a lesser extent.
Children and adolescents have also been greatly affected. At least one in seven children and young people across the world has lived under stay-at-home policies that were imposed or recommended by their government, which “put their mental health and well-being at risk,” according to a report by UNICEF. “Many children are left feeling afraid, lonely, anxious, and concerned for their future,” an effect that will last for years, according to UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.