Stigma, Discrimination and Mental Health

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Everyone judges, you have to admit it! Even if you try your hardest not to, at some point you will. Imagine going to see your doctor to talk about you feeling anxiety or depression, and they tell you not to sweat the small stuff and that you’re overreacting. How would you feel? Would you go to another doctor for advice? How would you feel being judged based upon a diagnosis?

Many people who have a mental health illness suffer from stigma and discrimination, from family, media, society and even from those who are there to help them, their doctors, nurses, and social workers.

Mass media shapes public opinion, whether for the good or bad. Unfortunately media, in all it’s forms has made mental illness synonymous to violence, and something to be feared, through negative images, headlines and movies.

Here are some real life stories, taken from CAMH Cross Currents, Journal of Addiction and Mental Health:


  • “It is difficult to describe the nature of the stigmatization and discrimination because it often works in subtle ways. In my experiences, the feeling of being silenced has always been indicative of a form of oppression. There were many psychiatrists who inquired about my diagnosis, before they even asked for my name or age. A number of psychiatrists even refused to take me on as a patient based on my diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. This diagnosis was eventually changed to borderline traits, which seemed to produce less hostility and fear by health care workers. These encounters perpetuate stigmatization and further perpetuate the cycle of self-stigmatization.” – Toronto, Ontario


  • “After a long battle of trying to find appropriate medication for severe depression, I finally “gave up” and “gave in” to the suicidal ideation I had been experiencing and seriously overdosed.When I was admitted to the intensive care unit, the first words of the ICU nurse who eventually came to see me were, “You may wonder why it took me so long to come and see you. We spend all our time helping people who are dying and want to live; we really don’t have much time for people who want to die.” All she did was confirm my belief that I was so worthless that the whole world would be better off without me.After surviving the most gruelling night of my life, I was feeling so full of shame, but I knew I would never attempt again. A different ICU nurse came in and asked me what had happened. I sighed, and told her that I had had two post-partum depressions and wanted to have a third child and “get it right,” but I miscarried at 17 weeks. The nurse responded, “That must have broken your heart.” I said, “Yes, my heart is truly broken.” It meant so much to me that she actually understood.She then said, “You’re going home today. Would you like me to wash your hair for you?” That simple offer of help as I went to “face the world” after what I had done suggested that maybe I did have some dignity and worth after all. It did so much to lessen the stigma and shame I felt. That was more than 10 years ago. I don’t know her name to thank her, but I will never forget her kindness.” – Ottawa, Ontario


You can also check out:

Mental Health Myths?!

Opening Minds Project


Posted in Bullying, Canada, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Youth, Social Issues, Uncategorized, USA, Youth | No Comments


Bullying is a disease that affects people worldwide. This video is amazing and I hope you watch and share it. It is truly inspiring and honest.

How many kids go to school with a smile returning home with frowns, tears, or marks from being hit at school? No kid deserves this! Parents need to be aware of what is happening at their childrens school. Keeping communication open with your children is the only way to know what is going on at school.

So what do you think about this video? How is bullying at your school? Or, for your kids?

Remember bullying is NEVER OKAY, whether at school, at work, or at home!

You can also check out:

Canadian Bullying Video Goes Viral

EP Article: My Child is Being Bullied.


Event: Saudi Aramco Cultural Program 2012

Posted in Festivals, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Youth, Uncategorized, Youth | No Comments

Saudi Aramco Cultural Program 2012.
Want something fun to do this summer? Then get ready to mark your calenders. You must check out the Saudi Aramco Cultural Program in Dhahran, Riyadh, or Jeddah.

What you can expect:

  • 1001 Inventions (Has been showcased in London, New York, Los Angelas, and Abu Dhabi. Revealing 1000 years of scientific and cultural achievements from Muslim Scientists and Inventors.)
  • Tinkering Village (Where science, art, and technology come together to create a fun learning environment.)
  • iSpark (Hands on and interactive science workshops.)
  • Live Entertainment (Barney & Friends / Fareej Show)
  • Valencia Football Academy of Spain (Offering intensive soccer training and fun for kids.)
  • Imagination Playground (Where kids can play, learn and have lots of fun.)
  • Heritage Village (Where you can learn more about Saudi Arabia and enjoy some traditional food.)
  • And so much more…


Where & When?

Dhahran: June 16th – July 18th / 5 -11 PM Daily / Opposite to the Industrial Training Center

Riyadh: June 19th – July 13th / 6 – 11 PM Daily / Riyadh Exhibition Center, Morooj Area

Jeddah: June 16th – July 18th / 6 – 12 PM Daily / Saudi Aramco Club in Rehab Mall.

You can also check out:

The Official Website for the Event


Posted in Canada, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, USA | No Comments

Before I get to the post, I want to apologise for not posting regularly lately. I have been quite busy, with a little bundle of joy on the way and having a gazillion things to do, okay that one is exaggerated a bit 🙂 So without further ramblings, lets get to todays post on what makes a great teacher.


Do you have that one teacher from high school who left a life long impression on you? That one person who inspired you, or who kicked your butt because they knew you had more in you. Although many teacher’s do the job for the money, there are some who do it because they have a passion for it and want to help and inspire the future generations. It is those select few who make a huge difference in the lives of their students, it is those who will never be forgotten.

For me that teacher was Mr. John Patsildes, he taught history, philosophy and politics in Toronto, a great man who everyone could not help but love. A man who until this day I thank God that I met. He taught us to be open to the world, to fight against ignorance, to break down stereotypes, to read the newspaper everyday, to think outside the box, and to push ourselves outside of our own limits. He encouraged us to think for ourselves rather than follow the herd. He made every morning great and truly educational. He pushed us all to dream bigger and brighter for ourselves. He was a real teacher!

Teacher’s are not just teaching kids math, science and languages, they are teaching kids the skills of life, well at least they should be. Growing up I had quite a few teacher’s who everyone loved because there was never much work being done in class, instead we’d all just chit chat and get to watch movies, sometimes not even related to the course. But looking back I realize what a disservice they had done to me and all of my other classmates. Although at the time they were the cool teacher’s, but looking back I cannot help but look back and think what the hell?

So for all the teacher’s out there: inspire, motivate and encourage your students not only with regards to the course material, but in life. Open their eye’s to the world and encourage them to reach for the stars and venture into uncharted territories. Teacher’s make a difference in their students lives, they can either chose to inspire or to stifle their students potential.

Did you ever have a teacher who left an impression on you for the better. If so what did they do?

Knowing How to Speak

Posted in Social Etiquette, Social Issues, Uncategorized | No Comments

Okay we all have those occasional moments when we blurt things out without thinking, but sometimes the consequences of that action can have dire results. It is certainly easier said than done, but we need to know how to speak, whether at work, at home or in any type of social environment.

I’ve encountered many times people who open their mouths and just let whatever come out, sometimes not realizing how rude and obnoxious they actually sound. This can apply to emails just as similarly to conversations. Knowing how to speak and deal with people is the key to success. Life is all about dealing with people.

Everyone has different personalities, ways of thinking and cultural norms, so learning how to navigate through all of that can sometimes be difficult, but with practice and time it becomes natural.

So here’s a few tips to remember:

  • Think before you speak.
  • Be polite.
  • Listen to the other person before you speak.
  • Do not answer your phone unless you excuse yourself first.
  • Do not ask inappropriate, personal or intrusive questions to someone you’ve just met or barely know.

In every culture there are those “no-no questions,” most often it centre’s on:

  • Money/Income
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Politics
  • Weight/Size

Of course the “no-no questions,” depend on your relationship with the person. The more closer you are to a person the more likely things will be more open to discussion.

What are some of the crazy, rude or just really strange questions people have asked you? What are some questions or behaviours that are considered rude in your culture?

You can also check out:

More on Social Etiquette

Office Etiquette Tips


Desert Camping

Posted in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Culture, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The cool weather is here in Saudi Arabia and many people love to head in to the desert on the weekends, whether for a day trip or even overnight. If you’ve never been, give it a try, personally I think it’s great and a lot of fun. You can roast marshmallows over the fire, drive around on 4 wheelers, search for desert roses and fossils or just lounge around.

When I tell people that I love to head out to the desert, there are two responses, either they are just as interested as I am, or they think I’m nuts. I am the outdoorsy type and camping in a tent, trailer or cottage was something that my family has always done since I was a kid. So my interest in desert camping was something that came naturally to me I guess.

I believe to truly enjoy your life here or anywhere, you have to embrace it, be willing to try new things and be willing to see things differently sometimes.

Anyone who is thinking of heading day or overnight camping in the desert, I say go for it, but be prepared. Don’t go venturing into the Empty Quarter or doing anything crazy unless you are with people who know what they’re doing! There are many places  just off the highway that you can try out. When driving off the main road look for tire tracks and follow them until you find your ideal camp site. For first timers and those who are not in a group, don’t go too far from the road. The key to making the experience fun is to plan ahead and make sure to bring an adequate supply of water, food and snacks with you, especially if you plan to venture further from the main roads. Make sure your vehicle can handle the desert terrain, 4×4 suv’s or trucks, and bring along your cell phone.

Desert camping is a great way to experience Saudi Arabia. So to the expats out there who have not ventured yet in to the desert, go for it. The weather is right and you really do not have to go far to have a picnic, full day or overnight stay in the desert. You really don’t know if you would like it unless you try.

Have fun, I know I will!

You can also check out:

Overnight in the Saudi Desert

Blue Abaya Post: Desert Camping



Suicide & Depression

Posted in Canada, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Uncategorized, USA, Youth | 4 Comments

Are you feeling down or suffering from depression? Have you ever thought about suicide? Experts say 1 in 6 people think of suicide. Do you know that suicide is now the 8th leading cause of death in the US? Someone commits suicide every 15 minutes in the US.

I believe almost everyone can relate to this in some way or another. I’m sure most of us have known someone who has suffered from depression, commited suicide or has thought about or attempted it.

Suicide and depression is an increasing trend worlwide. Dr. Samia Ahmed, of Qatar, states that the global rate of depression is between 11 – 20%. Kuwait stands at 37.5%, Saudi Arabia at 29.9% and Qatar at 27%.

People turn to suicide, as a solution to end the pain that they are feeling. To them it feels like the only way to make it stop. But suicide is a final and permanent solution to a problem that is most often temporary. Depression if left untreated is a huge risk factor of suicide. Over 90% of people who commit suicide suffer from depression or another type of mental health disorder. The most frightening part is that the majority of suicidal people do not get the help they need. Their warnings go unnoticed or they simply fall through the cracks of the hospitals and institutions.

How can you tell if someone you care about is thinking of suicide? It can be hard to tell, but often times the person shows some of the following sings:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • No longer interested in their usual activities
  • Suffering from depression
  • Listening to songs about suicide and death
  • Putting their affairs in order, such as a will
  • Visiting or calling to say their goodbyes
  • Suicide notes

If someone you know tells you they are thinking of suicide, take it seriously. Just because they are talking about it does not mean they will not do it. Seek medical help for them and do whatever you can to help. Be there to listen, not judge or lecture.

I think the saddest thing about this is that most suicides are preventable. We need to spread awareness and help remove the social stigma of suicide and mental health disorders. We can make a difference if we try!

A great tool used to help people who are thinking of suicide is a distress hot-line. There should be national hot-lines in Saudi Arabia and widely publicised, where people who are depressed, having suicidal thoughts, or suffering from abuse, can speak to someone, with confidentiality. It saves lives! There is no face-to-face interaction, no one would know their name, its just a place to express themselves and the pain that they feel.

If you think someone you know can benefit from this please share it with them. Also, if you have any ideas or solutions to this global problem, its your chance to help, so speak up.

You can also check out:

Are You Having Suicidal Thoughts? Read This.

Suicide in Saudi Arabia.

Rising Suicide Rates in Saudi.


Steve Jobs: Life Lessons

Posted in Social Issues, Technology, Uncategorized, USA, Youth | 7 Comments


Steve Jobs needs no introduction. He was a visionary leader who changed the world and our everyday lives through technology.

When I read that he had passed away, I felt genuinely sad, just as I believe most people had felt. We had lost a legend and the world had lost someone truly remarkable.

In his Stanford University speech, I believe he truly summed up all of  life’s lessons in 15 minutes. Now how many people can do that?

He touched base upon the flaws in the education system, coupled with the general attitude towards University and what most people define as success and happiness. Society has this popular idea that most parents shove down their kids throats, that you get good grades in High-school so that you can get into University and get a job to make a good salary, and you’ll be happy.

But how many people have degree’s and go to work everyday saying to themselves, “I hate this.” Or they may have this great business idea, but pursuing it is “crazy and taking way too big of a risk.” His point is to do what you love and follow your gut feeling. Don’t go in to medicine, engineering or law, simply because it brings in the money and is considered prestigious. If you love it go for it by all means, but find what you love to do, and that will bring you happiness.

He had great passion and truly believed in his work at Apple. He makes me look at my Blackberry Torch and want to replace it with an iPhone. If you want to know his impact on the world just look in your homes. How many of you have or want an iPhone, iPod, iPad or a MacBook? How many of you have seen a movie produced by Pixar? Movies like Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Car’s.

Job’s said, its impossible to connect the dots looking forward, only looking back can you connect it. Follow your  heart and believe that it will all connect together in the end. Find what you love to do and never settle! And always remember through falling down can we truly learn to grow. And most importantly never drown out your inner voice.

He finishes the speech by saying, “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

To me that means, have a hunger for knowledge and never be satisfied and to be willing to take risks. What does it mean to you?

You can also check out:

 Steve Jobs & Apple


Posted in Canada, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Uncategorized, USA | No Comments

Poverty knows no race, no language and is not isolated to one country alone. It is in the most remote of villages and even in the most developed of cities worldwide.

Poverty can be barely meeting ends meet, being up to your ear’s in debt and not being able to pay the bills, and it can also be the extreme of not having the basic necessities of life, when I say basic I mean it; food, clean water or safe and clean shelter. Poverty leads to hunger, even the extreme of starvation, malnutrition, homelessness, the development of slums or ghettos, and often times creates habits that are passed on from one generation to the next, such as not attending school, early pregnancies, and in some parts of the world, child labour.

Growing up in poverty can create many problems for young kids; there is a higher school drop-out rate in poorer neighbourhoods, as well as not pursuing higher education such as University or College. They are also at greater risk of emotional and behavioural problems, such as low self-esteem and aggression. Children who grow up in poverty are more likely to engage in sexual behavior earlier than their peers in more well off neighbourhoods, which puts them at risk of disease and infection and teenage pregnancy.

The causes of poverty vary from country to country and are unique to each individual who has to deal with it. Some of the causes of poverty are:

  • Government corruption
  • War
  • Government policies
  • Lack of educational facilities
  • Lack of employment opportunities
  • High cost/standard of living
  • Turmoil in the economy (Recessions, stock market crash, which leads to lay-offs and a whirlwind of other issues, which as we have recently seen affects the society as a whole, such as the home foreclosure crisis. )
  • Mental/physical disabilities
  • Drug abuse and addiction
  • Fleeing from emotional and physical abuse at home (Most often women and youth.)

Just as there are many causes of poverty, there are also many ways to curb poverty, such as:

  • Providing access to proper health care
  • Teaching proper hygiene
  • Providing schools and other educational facilities
  • Access to birth control and sexual education
  • Building low income housing, which is subsidized through the government or charity
  • Spreading awareness

Things you can do to help are: donate old books to schools in poorer neighbourhoods, donate or volunteer at organizations for the homeless and the poor.

You can also check out:

Youth: Poverty, Hunger & Homelessness 

Chaos in London

Posted in Social Issues, Uncategorized, Youth | No Comments

London and surrounding cities are in utter chaos. There is mass looting, setting fires, muggings, and violence ravaging the city. Approximately 1500 people have been arrested so far. People as young as 11 are looting, setting buildings and cars on fire, and attacking people in the streets.

Some of the looters are saying that they are showing the government, police, and the rich that they can do what they want. Others are saying that they’re just having some fun and picking up free stuff. They talk so casually about it without any sense of law or what is right or wrong.

In this interview the anonymous man discusses what he say’s is the the real problem and reason behind the riots. He later goes on to say that the youth in poor neighbourhoods are doing this as a cry for help.

Some of the biggest and most important questions that need to be addressed are; where are these peoples parents? Is there no such thing as discipline anymore?  Are we teaching kids the difference between right and wrong? Have we let gangs take over society? Are parents, teachers, principals and community leaders not addressing the real problems amongst troubled youth? Are police doing enough?

In this video, Prime Minister David Cameron discusses options for the police force, as well as discussing what he say’s are the core issues behind the rioting.

What do you think the reasons are behind these riots?

You can also check out:

London Riot in Pictures

Rioters Attack Police

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