Baghdad- The “spiritual healer” in Iraq after 2003 recorded a strong presence at the expense of declining mental health, without missing out on the case of “exploitation” in providing services for huge sums of money, as well as the recording of “sexual assaults” on female patients, according to specialists.
Several factors have contributed to the decline of mental health in Iraq, including wars and multiple crises, but the societal view comes at the forefront, in addition to the neglect of successive governments since 2003 to develop this sector in their health programs, until the volume of spending on the mental health sector in the country has become only about 2% , according to data from international organizations.
According to the World Health Organization, one out of every 4 Iraqis suffers from psychological fragility, with 3 psychiatrists per million people, while other reports indicate that about 18% of Iraqis suffer from mental disorders, but experts confirm that the percentage exceeds that. much.
Psychological experts link the decline in mental health to the increase in suicides. The lower the level of the first, the greater the number of cases of the second, which reached 772 cases in 2021, according to the statistics of the Ministry of the Interior, an increase of about 100 cases from the year 2020, which recorded 663 cases of suicide.
Treatment or exploitation?
After 2003, the phenomenon of “spiritual healers” offices spread in Iraq, and the capital, Baghdad, came to the forefront of the Iraqi governorates, in addition to promoting them through Iraqi media and channels by appearing in daily and weekly special programs, in addition to the presence of many pages that promote the phenomenon on social media. .
The psychological and behavioral consultant, Dr. Ibtihar Al-Taie, believes that the decline in the culture of mental health in Iraq is due to the tyranny of the phenomenon of the spiritual healer, who began to register a negative presence after 2003, because of the large sums of money that these “clients” take.
Al-Taie does not deny, in her interview with Al-Jazeera Net, that many cases of “sexual assault” against women were recorded at the hands of “spiritual healers” and their financial and moral exploitation.
And she confirms that the decline in the culture of mental health has greatly increased the phenomenon of suicide during the past years, and attributed the matter to the absence of what she calls “family inclusion”, especially from parents, and the negative aspects of social networking sites on individuals.
Previous unofficial statistics estimated the rate of mental illness in Iraq at about 18%. But Al-Taie believes that the percentage is much higher, and may reach more than 25% of the population.
Realistically, this means that about 10 million Iraqis – as the country’s population exceeds 40 million, according to a government census – suffer from mental disorders.-
Lack of awareness
The phenomenon of mental health decline in Iraq seems natural to the academic and social researcher Dr. Waad Ibrahim Khalil, considering it a natural result of the unstable and difficult conditions the country went through, including various crises, wars and calamities.--
He believes that people turn to a “spiritual healer” more than to a doctor or psychiatrist due to the lack of awareness of the importance of medicine and psychological treatment, which “made the society’s culture very simple,” as he put it, adding to that people’s belief that seeing a psychiatrist is a shameful matter that will bring them stigma. They are “crazy or mentally ill”, considering this to be a major “misconception”.
He does not deny that the “most” spiritual healers aim only at financial gain, describing them as “charlatans” to cover some of them under the cover of religion. He also agrees with what the World Health Organization stated in 2021 that the amount of spending on mental health in Iraq does not exceed 2%, attributing the matter to the lack of awareness among society and government agencies alike.
Speaking to Al-Jazeera Net, the social researcher regrets the lack of interest in humanitarian disciplines, such as sociology and psychology, which are among the most important disciplines needed by society, as they contribute to restoring the psychological balance of individuals.
The Iraqi academic expects that there will be more than one person out of every 4 Iraqis who suffer from psychological fragility, suggesting that in order to address this, prepare counselors or psychologists and activate their presence in schools and universities to provide advice and assistance to students, to ensure the interest of future generations in this specialty, and their distance from “charlatanism and sorcery”. and spiritual healers,” he said.
Ibrahim stresses the need for government institutions, led by the Ministries of Health, Higher Education and Culture, and the media as well, to educate society about the importance of mental health and that it is a necessary science, and that psychological treatment is not a defect, as some think.
Optimism and warning
The psychotherapist, Yunus Al-Murshid, seems optimistic about the increase in the rate of people resorting to a psychotherapist more than a spiritual one in recent years, stressing that he was able to treat about 50 people during the past year who were suffering from psychological disorders.
The guide attributes people’s fear of not seeing a therapist or psychiatrist to the societal view that looks at those who suffer from psychological pressure, due to unemployment and other crises, with an “inferior view.”
The guide raises the bar on the importance of psychological and behavioral therapy, compared to “spiritual therapy”, as the first is through psychological sessions based on modern developmental methods without resorting to medicines or some “false” prescriptions adopted by “spiritual healers”, and without having No positive repercussions.
The guide warns of the spread of the “spiritual healer” phenomenon, due to its promotion through social media, with the aim of attracting the largest number of women and children and those he describes as “weak souls” and exploiting them financially and morally.