DEARBORN — On Saturday, April 27, The Arab American Health Initiative (AAHI) held a public seminar on raising awareness about mental health treatment, including therapy and medication, at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center.
Attendees included community and organization members and panelists in psychiatry and other mental health professions.
Sisters Mariam and Marwa Ayyash co-founded the nonprofit AAHI, which highlights healthcare needs, including reducing health disparities and fighting stigma within the Arab American community.
The youth-led organization focuses on improving the health quality of life for Arab Americans and motivating youth to chase their dreams through dedication and community outreach.
The AAHI highlights healthcare needs by fighting stigma and improving health outcomes for Arab Americans.
Panel members included psychiatrist Edward Jouney, D.O., who works in the University of Michigan Health System, and mental health clinical counselors Sura Shlebah and Zeinab Raishouni.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), one in five people in the United States experiences mental illness each year.
Mental illnesses are medical conditions that can disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. They include depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and borderline disorder.
When it comes to assessing mental illness, Jouney described it as wanting to know everything from the beginning; however, practices differ among different mental health professionals.
“It’s not like the Hollywood films with benches and hypnosis,” he said. “Instead, we ask questions and start from the beginning. ‘Is this the first time you felt this way? When did you first feel that way? What happens when you first began to feel that way?’”
Panelists and community members discussed the importance of seeking help and different coping mechanisms. They also addressed treatment options and stigma.
Jouney said the goal within the mental health profession, on a broad scope, is to interpret what a patient says and present the information back to them, helping them solve their problems.
“We all have mental health by the end of the day; we just need to take care of it,” Shlebah said. “There are even just the daily things that help with mental health and wellness.”
Raishouni emphasized the importance of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. To attain recovery there are steps to take to move up the ladder: Food, shelter, etc., eventually leading to mental health recovery.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs consists of physiological needs, safety, love/belonging, esteem and self-awareness.
The pyramid of needs is intended to track growth and development in human beings, who aim to only have their basic needs met. Factors such as illness or poverty can interfere with a person’s development in Maslow’s hierarchy.
“The stigma we experience with mental health within our community needs to be spoken of,” Raishouni said as community members spoke of addressing the stigma on mental health.
She mentioned another important factor when it comes to providing care to a patient: Seeing things from the patient’s perspective.
“Being a student, we were to learn how to get (mental health) treatment,” she said. “How will you learn what to see and give treatment if you don’t feel it?”
She added that therapists don’t judge someone as a person.
“They walk with you in the dark, hold your hands and challenge your thoughts,” she said. “It’s all about growth and there is no sense of shame doing it.”
Panelists also discussed how to approach someone who struggles with mental illness.
“Psychology education,” Jouney said. “Become familiar with what that person is going through. Have a duty to educate yourself first.”
They also discussed someone’s self-willingness to change.
“It’s not about what we have, it’s about who we are,” Jouney said. “Educate and emphasize that it’s okay to have this problem.”
Raishouni said it’s important to normalize the discussion of mental health and mental health disorders in the community.
“It’s all about having the conversation with people,” she said.
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