World Mental Health Day comes this year under exceptional circumstances on the global and local levels. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the daily lives of people around the world and it has placed a new burden on healthcare, and with mental health patients already suffering from social isolation, coronavirus has increased their isolation.
On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, Janssen Egypt, one of the pharmaceutical companies under Johnson & Johnson, which is considered one of the leading companies in the field of neuroscience, is participating in a series of activities to raise awareness about mental illness in Egypt.
Last year, the company sponsored the national awareness campaign to remove the stigma around mental illness. The campaign, led by Dr. Ahmed Okasha, is still ongoing.
Janssen also partnered this year with Misr El-Kheir Foundation to light up Cairo Tower, which was the site of a suicide several months ago, in order to emphasize the importance of raising awareness about mental health and providing patients with more support during the coming period. This goal is in line with the Egyptian government’s efforts to support Egyptian citizens, as they are the most important national resource for the country.
It is time to talk more about all kinds of mental illness, as it is no different from any other disease such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and with the spread of mental illness in society, the alarm must be sounded to further highlight these diseases.
Prof. Mumtaz Abdel-Wahab, professor of psychiatry at the faculty of medicine at Kasr Al-Aini and the president of the Egyptian Psychiatric Association, says that the results of the National Mental Health Survey, which are aimed at measuring the prevalence of mental disorders in Egypt for the year 2018, revealed that 25 percent of Egyptians suffer from psychological disorders or symptoms of disorders. It also confirmed that only 0.4 percent of them receive treatment, and 43.7 percent of patients suffer from depression. Minya governorate has the highest prevalence of mental disorders, and depression affects one out of seven people during their lifetime, which is equivalent to between 15 to 20 percent of the population, according to global statistics.
Prof. Abdulnasser Omar, professor of psychiatry and head of the department of psychiatry at the faculty of medicine at Ain Shams University, says that the goal of treating psychiatric patients is to enable them to regain their ability to work, their social life, their personality, and their happiness, whereas not receiving treatment will affect all this.
Additionally, treatment needs to be effective, continuous, and sufficient, so that the patient can live a normal life.
Prof. Tarik Okasha, professor of psychiatry at the faculty of medicine at Ain Shams, said that the treatment of depression began since the time of ancient Egypt, and therefore there was no stigma associated with the illness at the time. According to Okasha, the first real treatment for depression was through an induced insulin coma, where the patient was given a high dose of insulin to lose consciousness, which led to some physical changes.
Okasha also said that in 1938, Italian scientist Chappleti developed the treatment for depression and psychosis through electro-shock therapy, which remained the only treatment until the 1950s. Then, drug treatments were discovered, and there were many methods for treating depression. Okasha added that there are some patients, called treatment-resistant depressive patients, whose response to drugs is minimal, and recently innovative treatments have appeared, as well as work on different nerve conductors, and thus there is new hope for these patients to respond to treatment.
Prof. Hisham Rami, professor of psychiatry at Ain Shams University and Secretary General of the Egyptian Psychiatric Association, said that depression is the most common mental illness and the most disabling, to the point where the World Bank and the World Health Organization have declared that within eight years, depression will be the most prominent cause of disability in the world.
Accordingly, early diagnosis of patients must be of the highest priority for health systems around the world, and novel, proven, and universally approved treatments should be available to everyone. He also stressed that failure to treat patients with the right treatments leads to serious complications and even death, in addition to heart and brain strokes, and that depression is one of the causes of the exacerbation of diabetes and its complications. Furthermore, people who are not treated effectively and within a timely manner may commit suicide, and all international research has confirmed that investing in diagnosing and treating depression has a good effect on the quality of human life and the economies of countries.
On the other hand, Dr. Ramez Mohsen Managing Director of Janssen for North East Africa and Jordan has emphasized the company’s utmost commitment towards mental health and psychiatry throughout the past 60 years. As a leader in this area, Janssen is focusing on research and development of innovative treatments for patients. This stems from the company’s commitment to help patients lead better lives, which doesn’t only positively afffect them but also their families and lived ones.. The company is also well committed to its role in raising community awareness to remove the burden and the eliminate stigma associated with mental health. Ramez also added that Janssen also focuses on providing support to doctors and health care professionals working in this field, so as to enable them to offer proper treatment for those patients. Dr. Ramez has also hailed the huge efforts of the government in raising the standard of health care, and putting patients’ interest on the top of its priorities. He has also welcomed cooperation with all the concerned authorities to put psychiatric diseases into their prime consideration.