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One Out of Two People Is Mentally Ill: Gruesome Reality of Mental Health Care in Morocco

A mentally ill man is seen in the village of Bouya Omar, some 86 km east of Marrakesh, on March 20, 2014 (AFP Photo:Fadel Senna)
A mentally ill man is seen in the village of Bouya Omar, some 86 km east of Marrakesh, on March 20, 2014 (AFP Photo:Fadel Senna)

Rabat – One out of every two Moroccans, or an astonishing 50 percent of the population, has mental or psychological disorders, according to an alarming report by the Ministry of Health on the rate of people with psychiatric disorders in Morocco. 

Scary Statistics, Worse Conditions

Along with this alarming statistic, Morocco suffers from a critical shortage of psychiatrists and mental health workers in the public sector. In total, there are only 197 psychiatrists in the country, representing an average of 0.63 psychiatrists per 100,000 inhabitants, compared with the world average of 3.66 psychiatrists per 100,000 inhabitants.

Mental health facilities in Morocco are not equipped with sufficient  infrastructure and human capital to meet the soaring demand for care of the mentally or psychologically ill, leaving patients to face delays in accessing treatment.

Casablanca, the highest populated city in Morocco, has only three centers specializing in mental health, the Ibnou Rochd Hospital, and the two health centers of Tit Mellil and El Hank, each of the three facilities having reduced capacities.

In an interview with Morocco World News, Hassan Kisra, Director of Errazi Mental Health Hospital in Salé, said that out of the 100 graduates from Morocco’s medical institutions only 30 to 40 are employed in the sector.” This is not enough,” he said, with concern visible on his face.

“In cities such as Paris, it is estimated that there are over 700 psychiatrists. In Morocco, the number of psychiatrists is less than 400. The sector suffers from an enormous shortage and extreme stigmatization,” said Ksira.

Rising Demand, Limited Beds

The situation is terrible, according to the director. “We receive around five million patients on an annual basis, flocking from all around Morocco. We have a waiting list devoted to the people who cannot be hospitalized immediately because the bed capacity is limited.”

In a 2017 report released by the World Health Organization, based on calculating the combined numbers of years depressed individuals lived with mental disorders, the WHO’s found that Years Lived with Disability (YLD) in Morocco amounted to 265,318, or 7.4 percent of total depression cases. As for anxiety sufferers, the YLD figure was 135,833, or 3.8 percent of Morocco’s total number of anxiety cases.

Compared to the WHO’s 2005 report, instances of depression increased by 18.4 percent. Anxiety increased by 14.9 percent during the 10-year period in Morocco.

Psychiatric  Dr Mohamed El Baroudi painted a stark image of the reality of mental health in Morocco from his experience in the work field.

Asked to identify the reasons mental health care demand is rising, El Baroudi said that the reasons vary from the pressures of modern life to childhood traumas, based on the nature of the disorders, whether mental or psychological.

The Director of Errazi Hospital indicated that the most recurring cases are children suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and various phobias. El Baroudi added that he sees a growing number of instances of pedophilia.

“Each day, I receive about five child victims of pedophilia at the Souissi Children Hospital in Rabat. The problem is spreading at a frightening rate,” said the psychiatric.

Unfulfilled Promises 

The ministry of health is not making sufficient orconsistent efforts to fill significant gaps in mental health care, said El Baroudi, referring to the closure of Bouya Omar Mausoleum located  El Kelaa des Sraghna in July 2015.

Patients at this “mental asylum” were kept in miserable conditions, chained and handcuffed to awall, sharing a room with four other patients at a time.

The Ministry of Health conducted a mission to evacuate all patients from the facility and promised to replace it with a modern institution.  However, that promise has not yet been fulfilled.

El Baroudi recognized the ministry’s efforts to address the situation through closing the facility, which had embodied the height of human cruelty and mistreatment. But he says it is not enough. “What now?,” he asked. “Where will these patients be hospitalized, when there aren’t even enough facilities to shelter them?”

The Ministry report stated that a new facility will “soon be created.”

A national delegation will be responsible for presenting policies, strategies and reports on the state of psychological health in Morocco to the ministry.

Meanwhile, a regional delegation is being established to receive feedback from patients and monitor their health and present annual reports on the progress of reforms to the mental health system in the country.

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