BEIRUT: The effects of the financial crisis on Lebanon, political turmoil, and the aftermath from the Beirut port explosion continue to be a problem for the people of Lebanon. There is increasing concern about the impact these crises have on their mental health.
While no accurate statistics are available for the number of people who take sedatives, psychiatrists report that the number of patients visiting their clinics in the past year exceeded 12 a day. Meanwhile, pharmacists estimate that people wishing to buy psychotropics — drugs that affect a person’s mental state, including antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication and mood stabilizers — constitute 30 to 35 percent of their customers. Some medical estimates suggest that one fifth of Lebanon’s population feels depressed, anxious, or sad because of the country’s economic and social circumstances. However, healthcare and medicine are not easily accessible to all. The Lebanese Pound has lost its value in the US dollar, and rising prices are reducing incomes and salaries. Many people feel hopeless after the Beirut bombing on Aug. 4, 2020, and the armed clashes that took place in the Tayouneh area last October. Hiba Dandachli is the communications director at Embrace, which provides mental health services. “Since 2019, was ended following the escalating social and economic collapse, the levels mental disorders have risen.”
In 2021, she said, 20,000 people called the Embrace Lifeline, more than in any previous year. Due to the decline in economic and social conditions, and the unemployment, a large number of callers, mostly teenagers, were experiencing anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Dandachli stated that the Lebanese marched in 2019 to vent their anger. “But, they feel despair because of the escalating crises. “Without social justice, securing stability’s fundamental right, our services can only help people and do not provide solutions. We are sedatives.” Joelle, 33, who works at an insurance company, said that she sought help from a psychiatrist because she was suffering from anxiety as a result of the dire economic situation and the fear of being unable to provide for her family. She said that she began to feel suffocating in the night and was having panic attacks. She explained that the medication she was given is not available in pharmacies and that it is very costly. A study published in December by the Lebanese American University indicated that “16. 17 percent of young people, between 18 and 24 years old, suffer from severe depression since the Aug. 4 explosion, and 40. 95 percent of women suffer post-traumatic stress disorder.” “We see most mood disorder cases at the clinic,” stated Dr. Hanaa Azar, a psychiatrist who works with children and adults. She believes that “between 70 and 80 percent of people in Lebanon take sedatives as a result of sleep disorders, stomach spasm, tachycardia, eczema, phobias, body pains and other physical symptoms that are symptoms of mental disorders.” She said that all generations are affected by these disorders due to insecurity, particularly children. As people return to school and work, a variety of behavior and academic disorders emerged. Obsessive-compulsive disorder cases among adults.” have also increased Drs and psychiatrists are especially concerned about the lack of medicine, particularly since many are no longer subsidized or partially subsidized. Only cancer drugs are fully subsidized. Subsides for drugs used to treat neurological conditions are dependent on the cost of the medicine.
“A very large number of Lebanese take a sedative drug, the price of which has risen from 25,000 Lebanese pounds to 420,000 within just two months.” The official exchange rate remains 1,500 pounds to the dollar, but this is unavailable and the currency currently trades on the informal black market at more than 30,000 pounds to the dollar. Samer Soubra, a pharmacist, said that he does not understand why medicine shortages persist despite the fact that prices have increased to reflect the rising exchange rate. He said that “Medicine distributors were reluctant distribution to pharmacies due to the high exchange rate.” Today, many medications are priced according to black market exchange rates. Subsides have been lifted for many and some medicines are still missing such as infant formula.”. Many people in Lebanon use relatives from other countries to get the medication they need, particularly psychotropics. They also bring them from Turkey and Greece. Lebanese expatriates have donated money from France. Many are still living without their medication. Azar stated that some people have quit taking their medication, and they have had health problems. Dr. Yara Chamoun, a psychiatrist, stated that many Lebanese have started to show signs of mental disorder after the economic crisis. This is especially true for young people. She said that in addition to depression and anxiety cases, there are also cases of drug and alcohol abuse. “Patients claim that they become addicted to them because they help with sleep or forget the harsh reality.”. Chaoun stated that Psychiatrists are stuck in a bind when it comes to treating patients with the right medication. She explained that some alternative psychotropics may not be effective enough for the patient and others may be too costly for them to afford. Amal Moukarzel, a Lebanese ex-patriot in France, started Les Amis du Liban de Colombes with her husband, friends, and others to collect medicines donations and send them to Lebanon. “We now send around 120kg of medicines from time to time, obtained from hospitals and sent in cooperation with Middle East Airlines to local associations in Lebanon to be distributed to needy patients,” she said. Moukarzel stated that despite the logistical challenges she faces, she insists on sending more of “these much-needed medications, most of which are for diabetics and blood pressure as well as psychotropics
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