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Mental health & our Arab community
Jamal Cadoura
Jamal Cadoura
Friday, April 29, 2016 - 10:11 am (2 Comments)

Growing up in an Arab family is fun. There’s great food, noisy gatherings, and parties that are so wild you’d swear the world is ending.

But there also comes a distinct stubbornness. When you’re Arab, numerous expectations are placed upon you. In many cases, your choices of a career and significant other are heavily influenced. Defying your family isn’t really an option.

This subbornness is at its worst when it comes to mental health. While growing up, I’ve often heard my elders say that depression is “all in the head.” “Life is what you make it,” they say. Some of that is true. If you wake up thinking your day is going to be crummy, it probably will be. And if you wake up with ambition and go out there pushing and striving, you’re more likely to succeed. But it isn’t always that easy for everyone, especially when depression and anxiety are ravaging one’s mind.

Recently in Dearborn, a young man committed suicide. Surely some in the masses are outraged that his suicide was revealed for public consumption. Yeah, a family’s privacy is important, but shedding light upon a serious community matter is far more crucial. The Arab American News reported that this suicide was “the latest in almost a dozen reported suicides in the local Arab American community within the past two years.”

If we remain motionless while our friends and neighbors suffer silently, this issue will intensify. It’ll only be a matter of time until more triggers are pulled and more lives are ended. Families will be torn, questions will be left unanswered, and the same vicious cycle will reign.

Within the past year, numerous people took their own lives. One suicide is bad enough. More than one is heart-wrenching.

The biggest issue here is the Arab community’s stigmatization of mental health. If someone is depressed, it’s not okay to make him feel “crazy,” or like it’s all in her head. If someone’s dealing with anxiety, telling him to calm down and breathe isn’t a solution, either. If someone says she’s not feeling right, believe them. Do something. There’s no need to label suffering people as “crazy” or “craving attention.”

A wonderful remedy is a listening ear. Letting someone know you are there for him can be as effective as any medication. On the other hand, displaying dispassion and disbelief could cause irreparable harm.

Some of you reading this will be offended. Some will disagree and say I’m way off base. That’s OK. The truth is a monster we all run from.  But it can’t be escaped. It will find us all. And if we don’t act sooner, and with more care and compassion, it will continue to appear in the disheartening form of blood and tombstones.


* Jamal Cadoura is a Palestinian American residing in Dearborn, Michigan. Improving humanity is what he lives for. In his spare time, he reads and writes as much as he can. Jamal formerly ran a nonprofit organization, Pens For Peace, and is an author of two novels.

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