The Social & Behavioral Sciences Society (SBSS) at Haigazian University hosted a very special event on Friday, April 1, 2016, in the Auditorium, to dispel the myths and misinformation surrounding mental illness in the Lebanese society. This event, entitled “Embracing my Mental Illness”, was jointly organized by Haigazian SBSS, the Psychology Society at AUB, and the Embrace Fund, an awareness support network for mental health in Lebanon and the Middle East affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC).
Research shows that one in 4 Lebanese will suffer form a mental illness sometime during his or her lifetime, which, if untreated, can be extremely debilitating for the patient, and causes much suffering to the patient’s family and friends. Unfortunately, many social taboos about mental illness in our society prevent the patient from seeking appropriate help so he/she may be back on track and live a normal, healthy and productive life.
The event included three panelists, students suffering from a variety of mental disorders, who spoke freely and spontaneously about their condition, and who emphasized the negative impact social stigmas have on the course of the illness. The powerful message delivered by all three students was not to be “ashamed” of one’s disorder, to talk about it to loved ones who can be very supportive, and of course, to seek professional help. The event was moderated by psychologist Dr. Pia Zeinoun, from the AUBMC, who graciously coached the three students in this adventure.
The event which was attended by a very big number of students from different universities in Lebanon, clearly showed a very vivid interest in the three accounts and raised very interesting questions for discussion. Everyone left with a very important lesson: It is through such community support, as the one manifested in this event that the stigma of mental illness in Lebanon can be broken down.