Mental Health: The Silenced Killer of Lebanese Youth – إلى نورهان المشاكسة

Nourhan Hammoud

Nourhan Hammoud was Lebanese girl in her twenties, from the South, full of life, her friends had never known her to be fragile, non-smiling or weak. She dreamt of the days when she would leave this country that brought her down, but the afterthought of her mother kept her here.

On August 29th, 2016 – the weights of this world proved too much for Nourhan Hammoud and she decided that ending her own life willingly was the easiest of choices.

Nourhan was not smiling all the time. She was wearing a veneer of strength in a society that viewed her ailment – depression – as nothing more than something of which one could “snap out” of. But depression is never something one could “snap out” of. It’s the weight of a thousand boulders on your shoulders, oppressing your chest, suffocating every breath out of your lungs, as your lips turn into the shadow of a smile to let your friends be fooled into thinking you are okay.

Our ad agencies make fun of anxiety. Our society makes fun of depression. We ridicule schizophrenia. We fear bipolars. We look at these people who are ill and call them “insane,” put them in a corner, chastise them, segregate them, drive them away instead of in.

Nourhan committed suicide not out of cowardice. There are no harder decisions. She did so out of necessity, out of feeling that there was nothing in this life worth living for anymore. We’ve fostered that kind of feeling in her and inside everyone in this country who has done so, or is suffering from a mental health ailment.

We are losing our own youth to our own prejudices in more ways than one. We’ve turned “mdapras” into a joke. We’ve let those who seek help feel ashamed of doing so in the clinics they seek.

Nourhan Hammoud, may you rest in peace.

I leave you with the words of her friend Aly Sleem:

هي من ابشع اللحظات التي لا نعرف ماذا نقول فيها، فنحن لا نحبّ الوداع ونكره الرحيل ونتعلّق بالذكريات. نورهان…. لم أتخيّل يوماً بأن أسمع “خبرك”، عادة لا يموت الا الكبار في السن، لم أتعود بعد على فكرة أن المفعمات بالحياة يُخطفن وهنّ ماضيات في حياتهن، غير آبهات بأحد… أتذكّر منذ اشهر قليلة، في مزيان، قلتي لي انك توديّن السفر، ربما تفكرين بتركيّا، لكنك تخافين فراق الوالدة، وفراق شارع الحمراء وفراق الأصدقاء، لكن أنانيتك أبت إلّا  ان تتخلى عنهم جميعاً، في لحظة، دون استئذاننا، دون تحضيرنا نفسيّاً، بلا حتى رسالة على موقع تواصل اجتماعي حقير وبائس كحالتنا.

لكن مهلاً، انت لست بقويّة، انت خدعتنا جميعاً ولا زلت يا جميلة، حتى برثائنا لك نمجّد قوتك التي لطالما افتخرتي بها، وهل القوة هي بإنهاء حياتنا بأنفسنا يا متمرّدة؟ أتذكرين كم مرّة اطلقتي السباب على السياسيين والوطن؟ لماذا رحلتي دون أن تلعنيهم مرة اخيرة؟

لكن ايضاً مهلاً، كيف كان يحصل كل هذا ونحن غير مدركين؟! كيف لم ندرك ان نورهان متألمة؟ أن مشهد الضحايا في سوريا أدماها، ان الأمل المتلاشي في بيروت خنقها، ان هذا الكيان لن يُكتب له أن يصبح وطناً؟ أن “كبار العيل” في البلد سرقونا ولن يرحمونا؟

كيف يمكن لنا ان نمجّد قرارها “الحر” بالموت؟ لا، هذه الثقافة غير مقبولة، نورهان وغيرها تمنوا لو لم يأخذوا هكذا قرار، لا يمكن لهؤلاء أن يقبلوا بتهليل دموع وصريخ الأحبة… هذا جنون، كان لا بد لنا أن نضع حدّاً لمشاكسة “زهرة الجنوب الصغيرة”، كل ما كانت تحتاجه هو بضعة من الأمل والأمان… نورهان بحثت كثيراً، لم تجدهما فمضت في رحلة بحث عنهما.

وكأن بي أسمعك يا نورهان الآن تقولين: الموت يحاوطنا كما تحيط الدائره بمركزها لكننا لا نشعر به إلا عندما تضيق الدائرة وتمسّنا فى أشخاص قريبة وسرعان ما تصل الينا، دون أن ندري… تشبثوا بالأحباب لا حب فيهم فقط بل لطفاً بعذاب الأمهات والأخوات والأولاد إن نووا الرحيل…

لنحسب أن نورهان نائمة اليوم، لنحسب أنفسنا استيقظنا قبلها لنصلح كل شيء، لنعطي أملاً بأن الحياة لن تله بنا بعد اليوم وتسخر، ثم نوقظها، نوقظها لتسامحنا….
كل الحب…

An event is taking place on Saturday September 10th to raise awareness for suicide. Check it out and go for Nourhan, and every other Lebanese whose conditions we’ve made intolerable.
Lebanon Suicide

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Video of Lebanese Woman Committing Suicide

The video below is disturbing. Watch it with caution.

Video link if taken down: here.

 

The video looks real. And according to the following news item (link), the woman in question, Amina Ismail, did throw herself off the balcony of her apartment at the 8th floor of a Beiruti building. She has been buried in her hometown, Tyr.

I wonder what got into her husband’s head to start filming though. It must be completely natural to bring up a camera when your wife straddles herself off a balcony in order to jump to her death. Or could he have sniffed out signs that his wife might do such a thing and figured a video is the best way to prove his innocence in court?

Either way, this tragedy, regardless of whether the video turns out to be true or not, is further proof that we are in dire need for two very important things:

  1. De-tabooing the idea of mental health across the country,
  2. Making psychiatry more accessible for everyone.

I don’t know what the conditions that led to this woman jumping are. But her death, if the video isn’t fake, could have been prevented if the idea of seeking help hadn’t been, in this country, worse than the idea of death itself.

May she rest in peace.

Update: according to an email from a reader who allegedly knows the couple, the man was filming their newly bought apartment when the incident happened.

The Lebanese Help: The Abused Ethiopian Woman Commits Suicide

Ali Mahfouz. Know the name. That is the name of a man who drove a woman to her death.

After publicly beating her up, right at the doors of her embassy, Mahfouz dragged his Ethiopian maid into his car and out of sight. The government had noticed the event and is now working to bring the man to court. But what good is it for that woman and her family back in her home country?

Mr. Mahfouz and his family created such an unstable work environment for the Ethiopian maid, whose name we still don’t know, that she drank detergent in an attempt to kill herself. That attempt was thwarted, leading to him beating up her in front of the embassy and somehow, in an interview conducted with LBC, he put the blame on the maid, denying he had even beaten her up. As if videos actually lie.

This Ethiopian maid’s death will, unfortunately, go in vain simply because there are a lot of people in Lebanon who share the same mentality as Ali Mahfouz, who see these Ethiopian (and other nationalities) maids as their “slaves,” who see nothing wrong in abusing them, be it by overworking them, beating them up, verbally abusing them, banning them from contacting their families…. Many simply don’t see them as human being. They don’t see them as people who, like us, have their own story in life, who have a voice and who need people to hear that voice.

Do you want to help me make the voices of maids heard? Then get aboard The Lebanese Help. If we manage to stop one family from being this abusive to their maid, then we can deem the plan a success.

Change starts with a whisper.