Australians who speak Arabic tend to avoid help from mental health specialists. That is the finding of a field survey and literature review conducted by Jacqueline Youssef and her associates, published in Synergy, a magazine published by Multicultural Mental Health Australia.
Youssef reports that Australian Arabic-speakers underutilize community mental health resources after discharge from inpatient psychiatric care. They are less likely to be admitted to hospital voluntarily for psychiatric problems, and Arabic-speakers are underrepresented as users of community mental health resources.
Reasons for this general lack of utilization of these resources are cultural. Mental illness is identified as a cause of shame and stigma, both in the family and in the wider community. People outside the family tend to shun it out of concern about being themselves contaminated by the shame. When a family member suffers a serious mental illness, other family members display emotional problems of their own, such as poor sleep and conflict with other family members. The family can be the target of shunning and mistreatment.
The impact on the family of having a member with mental health problems is a factor in limiting willingness to seek appropriate care. While the family can serve to lessen stress on the sick member, its expectations and criticisms can also exacerbate stress. When a decision is made to seek psychological help, that decision is usually made by men in the nuclear family or elders in the extended family.
While mental illness bears a stigma among Arab Australians, the stigma is worse for women because they bear the burden of family honor. Rather than going to a psychiatrist, for instance, they are more likely to consult a family physician, a medical clinic, a neurologist, or a gynecologist. They also tend to be disadvantaged by a very limited understanding of mental illness. Single women fear that psychiatric treatment could seriously limit marital prospects.
Both Muslims and Christians studied tend to rely on religious institutions for care and guidance around psychological issues. This tendency is at least in part because such problems are often seen as having a religious or magical origin, such as the influence of the devil.
An essential element in giving mental health service to Arab Australians is the building of trust, as there is often mistrust of government services. Language problems are also a concern for these Australians. While physicians generally have high status in the culture, such is not the case for psychiatrists and psychologists, and counseling is experienced as an intrusion into personal and family affairs, uncovering family secrets that would best remain hidden.
What immigrants know about mental hospitals at home also tends to discourage them from seeking inpatient psychiatric treatment. In at least some Arab countries, only the most severely out of control end up in psychiatric hospitals.
Youssef reports that the influence of family in health issues among Arab Australians is illustrated in relation to physical illness. Families often want to know about a diagnosis of cancer or a prognosis of a fatal illness, but often they want the information hidden from the patient.
Implications to be drawn for the study are the importance of dealing with the family unit and the need to work with clergy. While Youssef speaks of helping clergy to de-stigmatize mental illness, and by implication to make appropriate referrals, it would appear appropriate to assist them in developing their own counseling skills for troubled members of their communities. Some of these findings may also apply to North American Arabic-speakers.
Treatment of Khadr, other child soldiers denounced
The United Nations Committee for Defense of the Rights of Children denounced the United States for its treatment of child soldiers. Such children, according to the Committee, must be treated as victims, not as criminals. American actions in treating children as illegal combatants are a violation of the International Treaty on Children in Combat Zones, the Committee observed.
While the condemnation applies to the case of Omar Khadr, thre is, it is said, another man also held at Guantanamo who was captured as a child soldier. In addition, the United States acknowledges having taken some 2500 minors prisoner since 2002, mostly in Iraq.
Investigation of prisoner abuse side-tracked
The on-again, off-again Board of Inquiry on possible Canadian mistreatment of Afghan prisoners in 2006 is off again. The Canadian Forces internal investigation into allegations of beatings and of military police turning a blind eye, begun 16 moths ago, has been adjourned, as its website reports, “again.” The Board has adjourned the investigation because it awaits the outcome of a criminal investigation of the behavior of the military police.
While interested observers once again are forced to cool their heels, the government has taken steps to pull the plug on an independent investigation initiated by human rights complaints to the Military Police Complaints Commission. The Conservative government has gone to the courts to put a lid on that one.
Is anyone trying to carry out a cover-up? As Richard Nixon once put it, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Contraband milk seized
We can all feel safer now. Canadian Air Transport Security Authority spokesman Mathieu Larocque assures us that security staff were right when they tossed out a quart and a half of human milk that Nina Brewer-Davis was trying to take with her on her way back to San Diego from Vancouver.
Rules are rules, and it is clear that she was trying to board a plane with more than the permitted 100 millilitres of a liquid. Of course, if her baby daughter had been with her, the regulations would have permitted this otherwise dangerous contraband.
Brewer-Davis wanted to bring the milk back to feed her daughter while she was at work. Next time she’ll know better. She’ll have the milk checked in with the suitcases. Those wily Taliban just can’t get anything past Canadian airport security.
By the way, some time ago Toronto journalist Jan Wong boarded an Air Canada flight and tested security by leaving a box cutter on her open tray. No one said boo at the time, but when she reported on her escapade Air Canada sent her a sharp letter telling her that her behavior would not be tolerated in future.
Not liking Ataturk a hot issue
Nuray Bezirgan may be in trouble. She became a Canadian citizen after coming to Canada to study in 2004, because she could not get a university education back home in Turkey without removing her headscarf. Thus, a Muslim woman had to move from an overwhelmingly Muslim country to a predominantly Christian one in order to dress as she and most Turkish women believe is their religious requirement. But then Bezirgan became homesick and returned to Turkey, and now she has become a lightening rod for controversy between the secularists and the more devout.
On a television program, she dared to attack the nation’s historical idol, Kemal Ataturk. “Do I have a right not to like him?” “His ideas are not compatible with mine.” She even said that Turkish independence was not progressive. “If the English had stayed, I would have more rights.”
Because of a 1951 law that criminalizes impugning the memory of Ataturk, a prosecutor has opened an investigation of her remarks. Turkey is now in the throes of a battle between secularists in the Ataturk tradition and more religiously observant Turks. A moderate Islamic party is in power and wants to allow women to wear a headscarf in university, but secularists, with the military in leadership, are fighting this effort.
Turkey’s Constitutional Court has thrown out legislation which would have permitted the scarves in university, and now efforts are under way to have the ruling Justice and Development Party itself outlawed. Bezirgan has dived head-first into a hornets’ nest.
Canadian TV show goes international
The Canadian television series “Little Mosque on the Prairie” has been making waves internationally. Producers have sold the series to television outfits in the Scandinavian countries, Turkey, France, and Israel. Now Twentieth Century-Fox Television has purchased rights to the title and the theme. It plans to bring out an American “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” with release due some time next year.