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Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2005 Sep;18(5):560-4.

Mental health practice in Arab countries.

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The Spitzer Department of Social Work, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel.



This review deals with the current situation of mental health practice in Arab countries. Despite the complexity and importance of the topic, the Arab world still shows a lack of awareness regarding mental health problems and a dearth of mental health services and professionals. The main purpose of this paper is to examine changes in the area of mental health, and what still needs to be developed or investigated.


Mental health patients in Arab countries tend to express their psychological problems in terms of physical symptoms, thereby avoiding the stigma attached to mental illness. They also tend to underutilize mental health services and to hold negative attitudes toward formal mental health services. Reliance upon a deity and religious leaders as a means of coping with mental health issues is another prevalent theme in the Arab world. Another issue is that of mental health practices in politically volatile and violent regions, where higher rates of mental health problems and psychiatric diagnoses have been found. In addition, women in Arab/Muslim countries are at paramount risk from mental health problems.


The findings have implications for professional service delivery. Further research, intervention and activism are needed in the field of mental health systems in Arab countries to improve awareness of mental health problems. Further research is also needed regarding issues such as cultural competence and the suitability of mental health treatment and services for the non-Western communities in many Arab/Muslim countries.

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