Mental Illness in Kuwait on the Rise

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KUWAIT CITY— Kuwait is a small country full of wealth, oil and success. Kuwait has a low poverty rate and a stable economy, which makes for a strong foundation. Some would even say it is an infrequent topic of discussion, especially since it is situated amongst countries in constant turmoil. Like anywhere else, however, there are issues that perpetuate in the community despite the nation’s success, which affects people on a personal level.

Recently, government attention has targeted the agricultural industry, which is one aspect of Kuwait that suffers due to unfit climate and soil. The government has been working to increase investment opportunities, showing that Kuwaitis are ready to take initiative and change the problems that they do face.

On the other hand, Kuwait’s attention may be misguided, as there are health issues that have been slipping under the radar. Specifically, there has been an increase in mental disease in Kuwait, primarily depression. Out of the mere four million people that populate the country, 200,000 have been diagnosed with depression. There was a major leap from 2010 to 2011 and rates increased by a whopping 40 percent.

Statistics show that the 200,00 suffering from depression amounts to about 5 percent of the total population. To put this in perspective, the rate of depression in Scandinavian countries is less than four percent according to a study conducted the University of Queensland in Australia.

There are some strides being made on the ground level, such as seminars focusing on depression. For instance, there was a workshop held at a private establishment by the name of Fawzia Sultan Rehabilitation Institute, where the Clinical Director of Psychological Services, Dr. Nicholas Scull, made a speech that was meant to raise awareness for depression symptoms and signs for suicide. Scull also discussed skills for intervening with those who are in distress.

While this workshop is a step in the right direction, there needs to be more attempt by the government to incorporate practices and laws that aim in decreasing cases of mental illness. Kuwait does not have a suicide hotline, nor is there much public awareness for options for those suffering from depression. The amount of public versus private clinics is also limited, making treatment an unviable option for some.

In addition, depression in general does not often gain responsiveness from major international organizations that gather statistics, such as the U.N. or nonprofits such as UNICEF. This allows for rates of mental disease to continue to rise, undocumented. While depression may not hold the same weight as diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS, it still triggers debilitating symptoms that have both physical and mental effects on those who suffer from it.

Perhaps the stigma of mental illness also has an effect on lack of attention. Social opinions and religious or cultural beliefs often deem this disease as being of lesser importance than physical illness, however in reality, depression is just as much of an epidemic.

Psychiatrists are acknowledging the rising trend in depression rates, but unfortunately, there is not enough being done to spread the news. Reasons for the surge in depression remain unknown, and most likely, there are a multitude of causes. Hopefully there will be more effort put towards raising awareness to help treat those who have depression. Perhaps the government can support the opening of more public clinics and grant aid to organizations that aim at decreasing rates of mental illness. What can be inferred from this revelation, however, is that maybe there is validity to the cliché, “money doesn’t buy happiness.”

– Danielle Warren

Sources: Arab Times, Kuwait Times
Photo: Guardian Liberty Voice

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