Attaining good mental health
MarCom speaks to Dr. Michel Nawfal M.D. M.A., mental health specialist, and psychology instructor at LAU’s School of Arts and Sciences about attaining good mental health.
At what age is taking care of one’s mental health important?
Dr. Nawfal: When one hears the term psychology, the first thing that springs to mind, is a person reclining on a couch talking to a therapist, who is listening assertively whilst frantically taking notes. Needless to say, the domain of psychology is attached to many stigmas that may undermine the true objectives of a trained psychologist or therapist.
Mental health is about how we think, feel and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. Like physical health, ensuring good mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood through to adulthood. Actually, the field of psychology and mental health has grown quickly in the recent years and more people consult with psychologists as part of their routine check-ups.
It is also a vital step to aid young people during the most impressionable time of their self-development. “We sometimes attribute the incompetence of children to things other than learning or psychological problems. “For example, if a condition such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is left unaddressed, this may have an adverse effect upon the child’s personality later in life.
What is ADHD and how can it affect children?
Dr. Nawfal: ADHD is a mental disorder that a child is usually born with. Its symptoms start to show anytime before age 7. The affected child and adolescent tend to have a difficulty concentrating and a low attention. This affects their school performance – not due to a low intelligence level – resulting in low self-esteem and self-confidence, as well as anxiety. ADHD can also present itself in hyperactivity and restlessness. The ADHD child or adolescent finds it difficult to sit in one place, has an urge to move all the time. This often causes distraction in class and teachers tend to complain of such behaviour.
Those students are often expelled from class or even from the school. This can affect the child/adolescent’s self esteem drastically and can shake their sense of being liked. They feel as if they are rejected by society and that they are inferior to their peers. Professional attention will provide the child with stable foundations to guarantee better self-development and progress.
Lebanon’s schools and universities are striving to raise mental health awareness within the student body. It is fundamentally important to have a professional team on hand to ensure that children and teenagers have the necessary support and guidance in assuring good mental health.
What can be done to improve the field of psychology in Lebanon?
Dr. Nawfal: The domain of psychology is evolving progressively in Lebanon and an increasing number of people are realizing the fundamental importance of taking care of their mental health - and having the resources to do so. Raising awareness is a very crucial step in educating people about mental disorders and the availability of treatment. This is often relieving because the affected person becomes hopeful and optimistic.
What is lacking in this country are qualified personnel. It is very important for a person to know that the psychologist they are seeking consultation with is fully qualified. Also there still isn’t any legal body to control ethical and righteous practice of psychotherapy in Lebanon. The Lebanese Psychological Association (LPA), of which I am a board member, aims at working on establishing criteria to determine the qualification of a therapist and to decide whether a psychologist is allowed to practice or not. The concern lies with the reality that not every psychologist in Lebanon is actually qualified to practice therapy.
Dr. Michel Nawfal M.D. M.A. is a mental health specialist, a clinical psychologist and a cognitive behavioral therapist. He is a board member of the Lebanese Psychological Association and is a full member of the American Psychological Association. He is registered at the Lebanese Order of Physicians.