Does the Arab world talk about mental health enough?

Why I stopped to smell the roses
Does the Arab world talk about mental health enough?
Layla K. Saleh

I was raised in a house that allowed me to express myself, in a society that forced me to suppress myself and in a mind that desperately wanted to love myself.

In retrospect, I’m one of the luckiest girls in the world. I’ve always had a roof over my head, food on the table and a family that would protect me no matter what. So why was I feeling so broken...?

In the Arab world, and it pains me to say this, discussing mental health is quite taboo. We just don’t talk about it. If you told an elder you were depressed, they’d say “Go eat yoghurt” or “It’s all in your head, there’s no such thing”.  How exactly yoghurt was meant to help me, I’ll never understand.

What I do understand and know for sure, is that mental health is a very real thing. There are days I just do not have the strength to get out of bed. There are days my mind is overflowing in a sea of restless crashing waves of thoughts and emotions. And that’s okay.

Growing up, I struggled to grasp my feelings. I knew I was feeling something, I just couldn’t pinpoint what it was or where it was coming from. The not knowing made it so much worse. It felt like I was losing my mind and it scared me. Until I began to talk to the people closest to me, to research and I even went to see a therapist. There’s no shame in seeking help. It takes courage.

We live in a world of social media; a virtual world of comparison. We live in a fast-paced-never-stopping-to-smell-the-roses world. I’d be lying if I said I had it all figured out, because the truth is I really don’t. What I can tell you is, do what feels right. Do what makes you happy. Whatever sets your soul on fire, follow it and don’t ever stop following it. 

I am blessed enough to have a father I could openly speak to about anything and everything. I know that not all of you out there can say the same. Just know that my door and the entire Cosmopolitan Middle East’s door is always open for you. You will always be welcome here.

Talk to your family and friends; I guarantee you that most are feeling the same way. If you need to mute your friends on Instagram, if you need to take a long hot bubble bath or if you need to take a long walk on the beach, do it. 


And while you’re at it, stop and smell the roses.