I used to feel a lot of pressure psychologically and I couldn’t even talk about it at home.
Lai is a 40-year-old Syrian from Deraa, who moved to the north of Jordan with his wife and 4 children. They left everything behind in 2013 due to the war in their home country and built a new life from scratch. In a patriarchal society where men are seen as the sole breadwinners for their families, Lai felt that the survival of his loved ones was dependent on him.
They were stable and happy in Syria: Lai owned a home and goats and sheep, making enough to provide his family with a decent life. After moving to Jordan, however, there was no money and no certainty. The latter and the stress stemming from a situation of continued instability became too much for Lai. “Everything is on me,” he says. “I have to work and run around, and provide for 6 people. I am responsible for them and everything falls on me, the expenses, the livelihoods… a lot of things that are expected of me, house rent, schools… all of this.”
The enormous pressure Lai felt started manifesting with intense anxiety episodes. Mental health is highly stigmatised in Jordan so people suffering from it usually prefer to sweep their problems under the carpet. Men are even less likely to talk about their issues with their spouses. “In the end, I had an internal crisis,” explains Lai. He understood that something had to be done and decided to go to the Youbla Primary Healthcare Centre. Thanks to the training provided to the doctors there, which allows them to identify specific psychosocial issues, he was told he should be working with a psychologist.
Improving access to mental health and psychosocial support services is one of the main objectives of a project implemented at the centre by Action Contre la Faim and local authorities, thanks to the support of the European Union via the Trust Fund and the French Development Agency.
“I started going to the medical centre so I could talk and let things out,” says Lai. In addition, “Mohammad, the psychologist, started coming [to my house] to talk to me and through the conversations [we had] and how he talked, I felt better.” Lai had been ignoring his feelings for a long time, but bringing them out and being able to deal with them with the help of a trained professional, enabled him to have a more positive outlook on life.
Action Contre la Faim provides mental health and psychosocial support to 16,000 people like Lai in Jordan and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.