Lebanon’s Slow Silent Killer

Every 2.5 days, Lebanon loses an individual to suicide, and 1 in 4 people in the country will experience a mental health problem at a point in their lives.

At an industrial and modernized age as today, daily life encounters have advanced to levels that surpassed expectations. What made you feel uncomfortable fifty years ago can, today, break someone to fragile pieces.

When a person is diagnosed with Cancer, the process goes as follows: The close family members start hiding their misery and worry by transforming all the negative energy to a comprehensive support system to the patient. The medical treatment begins– dosages start to increase and so does the support. Society offers sympathy to the patient and offer to provide help of any form because the person everyone’s worried about is a human they’ve all interacted with at one point and built relationships with.

When a person starts withdrawing from family members and friends, or starts losing interest in things that were of his/her utmost interest, or when he/she develops worry and anxiety towards any social interaction of any type– society will tag the person as immature or assign him/her to be passing through a temporary rough stage.

“They will get over it, I mean they should. We’ve all had our rough times and here we are–head-strong and living normally.”

Mental Illnesses are diverse and include [ but are not limited to]: Depression, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder i.e. OCD, Eating Disorders, Alcohol and Substance Abuse…etc. These are only some of the mental illnesses that many individuals within our very same society go through.

There is an open space for everyone who might need help/be seeking recovery. One can’t deny that some illnesses could stick around for a long period of time. However, with the right treatment symptoms can be easily managed and treated.

Physical illnesses are no different than mental illnesses. A person diagnosed with cancer in need for help is no different than a person struggling with voices in their head. A person diagnosed with depression is not only struggling with ache and self-blame, but is continuously attempting to hide suicidal thoughts  as to this person, hurting oneself is much easier than hurting the ones you love. But, sometimes, darker thoughts get the best of you if not all of you. Blaming a person who has committed suicide for being selfish and unappreciative is no way near mitigating the stigma behind mental illnesses.

The numbers stated in this article are drawn out of rough data gathered by the Embrace Fund in Beirut, Lebanon. The numerical representation is not meant to drive you away from the concept of mental health in itself, but rather to draw further context on why recognition is one extra step towards acceptance.

For several years now, the Embrace Fund has been organizing a walk of appreciation to the people whom we’ve lost to suicide. The event, titled “Into the Dawn Walk”, will take place on the 10th of September at 5:00 AM where the starting point is in front of Beit Ward to reach the pigeon rocks in Rawshe, Beirut.

The Embrace Fund has been intensively working on establishing the “Embrace Lifeline” which would be the National Suicide Prevention Helpline. The tool would serve as to aid the people wanting to be heard and understood. This would not only raise the bar for mental health in the country, but would also create a comfortable and open space for everyone who is in need for help or knows someone who is.

Hussein Cheaito is a member of the Beirut Today Editorial Board and its former Managing Editor.