Mental health and suicide prevention – what can be done to increase access to mental health services in Morocco

mental health__

(Javi Hoffens, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Houda Bouazza is a second-year medical student in Rabat, Morocco. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


According to the latest epidemiologic survey [1] using a representative sample of the generic Moroccan population [2], 40% are suffering, or have suffered from a mental disease, including alcohol and substance addiction. Over 50% have had episodes of depression, and it occurs more frequently amongst women, single people and divorced couples. It’s all due to the increased amount of pressure that the society puts on these people, especially from their families. This could explain the high suicide rate amongst females: 3,6 out of 100.000, the highest in North Africa [3].

A LACK OF HUMAN RESSOURCES AND INFRASTRUCTURES

According to data provided by the WHO [4], for 100.000 people there is 1 psychiatrist, 33 specialized nurses and 0.04 psychologists, and only 5 children’s psychiatrists in the entire country. Also, the total amount of beds provided for mental diseases is 2.238 beds, which sadly includes both the public and the private sector.

There clearly is a huge gap between the needs, and the provided healthcare.

SOCIAL ISSUES

Mental health treatment’s evolution in Morocco is not only hindered by the lack of personnel and infrastructure: it is also a matter of mentality, and how people perceive those who are subjects to these diseases. It has always been a taboo to address it due to a general misconception of traditional and religious beliefs. The patients are often referred to as “crazy, lunatic, dangerous, possessed etc..”, a plethora of unflattering adjectives, which puts shame on the person, and stops them from facing their problems and seeking treatment.

THE GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSE

Following the obvious crisis, the Ministry of Health is working on a new strategy [5] regarding the issue, which consists in 4 main actions. The first one would be updating hospitals and integrated departments of psychiatry, and humanizing/normalizing healthcare structures and professional practices. The second is to keep adding departments of psychiatry in general hospitals, and to diversify the therapy offers and mental health interventions. The third involves working on the social reinsertion of the subjects to such diseases, the protection of their Rights, and fighting against their stigmatization and discrimination. Finally, the forth action ensures the reinforcement of healthcare measure and diversity in addictology.

WHAT CAN BE DONE

In an effort to increase access to mental health services in Morocco, a lot of work has to be done, starting with campaigns in order to break the silence and shame around mental health issues. Then of course, it would help to have people talking on social media platforms about their experiences in the domain: they could be scientists, doctors, or simply people who have suffered themselves.

Concretely, having a helpline available 24/7 for whenever you’re feeling down is both achievable AND efficient. Also, having a psychologist and/or a psychiatrist in every public structure with mandatory consults for free is of great help.

Finally, we should be honoring both World Mental Health Day [6] and World Suicide Prevention Day [7] to spread awareness and make people care, because it is a big deal.

References

  1. Kadiri N et al. Moroccan national study on prevalence of mental disorders: a community based epidemiological study. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavia 2010
  2. 6000 people, over 15 years of age, male and female
  3. WHO, World Suicide report, 2016
  4. WHO: World Health Organization
  5. “Plan santé 2025, plan d’action 2019-2021” or the “Healthcare plan 2025, action plan 2019-2021”
  6. 10th of October
  7. 10th of September

About the author

Houda Bouazza is a second-year medical student in Rabat, Morocco. She is also a diehard
Potterhead, and a fan of enjoying life. She has joined IFMSA purely out of curiosity in the
beginning, but this experience has turned into the purest love story, where volunteering meets having fun and discovering the world.

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