October 10, 2020

Global Mental Health Awareness Day

Nour Fayad

October 17, 2019, marked the beginning of the Lebanese Revolution.  People from all walks of life stood together in solidarity  to reject the status quo and to break free from sectarian and political allegiances.  Their voices echoed across the world,  sending a loud message about who they really are and what they aspire for.

February 21, 2020, marked the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, bringing Lebanon and the world down to its knees.  This was followed by a 3 months total lockdown, periods of “back to normal” and “partial lockdowns” in some affected areas, and periods of total negligence by officials who seemed to believe that there was no reason to panic.

On August 4, 2020, a catastrophic explosion ripped through the Lebanese capital, killing more than 200 innocent individuals, wounding close to 6,000, and leaving more than 300,000 Lebanese citizens homeless.  This seismic event shook the belief in a just world, robbing people of the sense that life is controllable, predictable, and meaningful.  It did more than ripping away at the present;  it tore the hopes for a better future, leading many into a state of depression, dissociation and denial.  In short, the extent of psychological damage caused by the explosion is beyond anything one can imagine.

The issue of “Mental Health" is of increasing concern in these challenging times, unprecedented in the modern history of the world.  People are living in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment, experiencing anxiety, depression, fear, isolation, frustration, uncertainty, chaos and anger.  They feel scared and worried, almost hopeless and helpless vis-a-vis all these compounded burdens.

When grabbling with uncertainty, individuals feel that they’ve lost control over their immediate environment.  This triggers the unknown, which for most people is very problematic, if not daunting.  Uncertainty leads to chaos, or the absence of predictability.  In order to buffer the roller coaster ride through chaos, some individuals resort to alcohol and medication and, if lucky, to therapy.  They are desperately trying to develop the capability to face uncertainty- to find the possibilities and opportunities within the unknown.

In a nutshell, uncertainty is tough on mental health, often leading to excessive worry, irrational behavior, and a deep sense of dread over a relatively short period of time.  In reality, what has been triggered feels more like a “Psychological Pandemic”.

Perhaps its best to zoom into our “Mental Health” to understand what is brewing beneath the surface.  In face of all these challenges, fear is very common because of the impeding threats we are faced with.  Fear naturally leads to worrying, which in turn leads to overthinking.  Overthinking impacts our wellbeing, since it involves focusing on the negative or dwelling on bad experiences or worrying about the future.  When we ruminate on a certain thoughts, it can snowball into bigger, more extreme negative thinking.

We feel trapped in our inner world, repressing our emotions to face and handle the social pressures to persevere despite all odds. In the process, we might employ many personas to handle the situation at hand.  We lose focus, trapping ourselves in self-sabotaging behaviors.  This poses a threat to our EGO, possibly leading to some form of an identity crises.  The vicious cycle goes on and on, unless we actively put in place some safety measures to protect ourselves physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.

Allow me to simplify the above:

As you can see, we are trapped in a vicious cycle that requires us to take active measures to alleviate the pain and to grabble more easily with the situation at hand.  Perhaps being aware of our inner environment and our outer world is the the first step towards healing.  We need to connect with one another, to share the pain and agony, and to collectively lift ourselves up and focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.  We ought not to shy away from asking for help- we have been through this before and we will get through this together.  It’s doable, if only we believe that we have all that it takes to turn things around.


Love & Light