For a country of somewhere around 4 million, the fact that some 1.642 million anti-anxiety and anti-depressent drugs says a lot. The Institute for Development, Research, Advocacy and Applied Care (IDRAAC) estimates that 25.8% of Lebanese people have at least one mental disorder.
Now, when you see that big a number, more than 1 in 4, you think “of course not” But then again, most of our jokes and jibes these days involve the phrase “khidlak 7abbten xanax/valium” somewhere (similar to how “m7ashash” has also become a pillar of current jokes, reflecting the rise of marijuana usage in Lebanon)
When you think of it, living in Lebanon is very stressful. Apart from wars and bombings and other severely traumatic stuff, we are constantly angry at something. While going home, it’s traffic, if no traffic, an accident, if not an accident, a checkpoint, if not a checkpoint, asphalt being put down or removed, if not asphalt, someone burning tires or an asshole convoy passing through, if you take a shortcut, it’s clogged up worse than the freeway, etc. You get home, you wanna shower, there’s no electricity, no hot water, you freeze your ass off, walk out of the shower, the ishtirak comes, sometimes too strong, burning your TV, your router is still ok, but cuts on and off for no reason, and anyway, your ridiculously low bandwidth is past it’s limit and when you try to open a hotspot with your 3G-enabled phone, there’s no reception in your room, only on one corner of the balcony, etc. If you wanna watch a Chelse-Manchester United match, but the Egyptian guy you buy dish from decides he wants to watch a Classico, you end up running around to other people’s homes or places to catch the game you wanted to see. If you go to pay a fine, they direct you to another place, then another, then another, with line after line that is more often than not bypassed by some asshole with connections, bad employees, smoking indoors, bribery essential and so much more you’re all very used to. This could go on for a thousand more pages, but you get the idea…. Everyone knows a person who died unnecessarily, most of our families are divided over continents and most of our dreams are quashed by corruption, bad economics and unstable politics. OH! and let’s not forget religion and oppressive religious practices and ideologies, the kind where it’s ok to kill your sister to protect “your family’s honor” in certain sects. And, I’m gonna stop here!
That’s why we’re all so depressed and anxious all the time, but the problem is, we feel it’s normal. No one, or very few, actually seek the help of a psychologist. We have gotten so used to living in conditions that should be unacceptable, that it’s part of who we are, part of our psyche. Also, even though are film producers and writers always point to the war and sectarianism as the main culprits for our deteriorating psyches, it’s not only those things. It’s all the millions of small, yet consistent things that tick us off, inching us bit by bit towards mental disease, if we aren’t already bipolar, manic depressive or generally anxious.