There Is No Health Without Mental Health: The Middle East and North Africa

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Book Chapter

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Global Perspectives on Health Geography

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Al Qanun, the medical encyclopedia of Ibn Sina or Avicenna (CE 1037), devotes a whole section to mental illness. His focus on mental ill-health goes way beyond that of the earlier Greco-Roman scholars. Similarly, Ishaq Ibn Imran, an Arab Iraqi physician of the tenth century, is credited with writing the earliest existing treatise devoted entirely to depression. The Middle East and North Africa have, undoubtedly, made considerable contributions to the foundations of our knowledge concerning mental ill-health. A continuation of this focus, however, has never been more necessary. In recent decades, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders have all reached epidemic levels in many parts of the world, and the Middle East and North Africa – MENA – region has not been spared. Major depressive disorder (depression) is now a leading cause of disability globally, and this is also true for many MENA nations. Anxiety and other mental health disorders are also among the leading causes of disability for many MENA nations, significantly contributing to the region’s burden of disease. All of these psychological complaints have a relatively early age of onset, with some of the most substantial and recent increases in prevalence observed among adolescents. This chapter explores the regional research literature on adolescent mental health. Numerous search engines (ScienceDirect, PubMed, PsycInfo) were used for this scoping review, identifying relevant literature between the years 1970 and 2020 in MENA populations. It is, however, not the aim of this chapter to provide an exhaustive systematic review, but rather to highlight some of the literature that best tells the region’s unique story. The chapter pays close attention to depression and eating disorders – conditions which most typically begin in adolescence. The aforementioned conditions can become chronic and costly sources of disability and distress. The relatively youthful population is a reason why such mental health problems should be a priority for the region. This review highlights that and advocates for prevention as a key strategy.




Springer International Publishing

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Medicine and Health Sciences

Indexed in Scopus


Open Access