At the Edge of Chaos

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Mental Health Amid Conflict and Climate Crisis

I want to emphasize that while I’ve shared my experiences and insights here, I’m no expert and I’m not pretending to be one. These reflections stem from personal encounters and observations, and I encourage you to seek professional guidance or further resources if needed.

At 30 years old, I found myself in the wreckage of a nation torn by conflict and crisis. War was raging in Lebanon, where I live, and in neighboring Gaza. Lebanon teetered on the brink of collapse in the face of an ongoing economic collapse, a crumbling infrastructure, and a disrupted healthcare system.

Each day brought new challenges and fears, with stress and anxiety becoming constant companions. Suicide rates are reaching alarming levels with one person dying from suicide every two days. Predictions of a bloody summer only added to the sense of impending doom, and, as if the human-made crises weren’t enough, spring floods and scorching temperatures intensified the feelings of vulnerability in the region.

With everything going on it’s easy to feel isolated and overwhelmed. But perhaps by sharing and acknowledging our shared struggles, we can find solace and strength in each other’s resilience.

The Weight of the World

As I scroll through my social media feed and turn on my TV, I’m confronted with horrifying images and videos from Gaza. It wasn’t just a distant conflict; it was a brutal reality I couldn’t escape, especially considering it was part of my job. Witnessing such atrocities left me caught in a deep sense of helplessness and despair. I can’t begin to imagine the magnitude of suffering endured by the people in Gaza.

Have you ever wondered how the world today would react to major historical events as they unfolded? Well, you’re seeing it now. Sadly, humanity has failed to protect more than 30,000 innocent civilians in Gaza. This raises the question: will we be next? Who will put a stop to this madness?

Transitioning from the grim realities of conflict, I found myself confronted with another existential threat: climate change. Recent devastating floods and the looming specter of climate change have cast a shadow of uncertainty over our world. The term “climate anxiety” has entered the lexicon, with Google searches for the phrase soaring by 565 percent in 2021 alone. According to Ted Chaiban, UNICEF’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, our region is the world’s most vulnerable to climate change, warming at twice the global average.

Psychologists have observed the toll of climate anxiety on our mental well-being, causing severe stress and influencing major life decisions. And while climate anxiety can affect anyone, it’s youth and young adults who bear the brunt of this burden.

The Internal Battle

With all the external battles, I found myself fighting an intense internal battle. The guilt of feeling bad amidst the incomparable suffering of others weighed heavily on my conscience. How could I justify my struggles when so many are enduring far worse? Was it selfish to acknowledge my own pain?

Yet, as I questioned the validity of my emotions, I realized that pain is not a competition. Grief, sadness, frustration, and anxiety coexisted within me, showing the complex human emotions. But still, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling of guilt, wondering if I had the right to feel this way when others were suffering so much more.

I found solace in acknowledging my own emotions and seeking support when needed. I realized that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed, to question, and to seek help during times of crisis. And while the road ahead may be filled with uncertainty, I am learning to permit myself to feel, to heal, and to find strength in vulnerability.

We Cannot Go It Alone

In a world where conflict, climate crises, and systemic failures seem to dominate the narrative, taking care of oneself is its own form of resistance. As the adage goes, we must first put on our oxygen mask before assisting others. Yet, we cannot navigate this journey alone. In a society where mental health remains a taboo subject, it’s essential to lean on our support networks, vocalize our struggles, and advocate for change. Alone, no human can withstand the weight of the world.

“The happiest depressed people in the world,” as the Lebanese people have been described, exemplify the paradox of our existence. Even in the face of adversity, and after being named the second saddest country in the world, we find ways to celebrate life, to connect with one another, and to offer support in times of crisis. It’s a testament to our resilience, capacity for solidarity, and unwavering belief in community power.

So as it’s Mental Health Awareness Month, I urge you: speak out, seek help, and advocate for systemic change. Let us refuse to accept a reality where an entire generation is left to navigate the complexities of mental health alone. Together, we can create a world where support, understanding, and compassion prevail – a world of harmony not at the edge of chaos.

Mental Health Resources in Lebanon



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