Mental health is still considered a stigma in the Moroccan society.
The often-overlooked repercussions of stigmatizing this issue took center stage on the World Day of Mental Health, especially since the alarmingly official figures said that nearly 48.9% of Moroccans are grappling with psychological disorders.
Not only is the stigma surrounding mental health issues concerning but also the sector as a whole in Morocco is sending an alarm, as the latest figures underscored the shortage of psychiatrists in both public and private sectors.
To delve more into the issue, Rim Akrache, a Clinical Psychologist and mental health activist for an NGO, provided MoroccoLatestNews with some insights about the current state of mental health in Morocco, and the challenges faced by those who are seeking professional help.
“Official figures from the Economic, Social, and Environmental Council show that 48.9% of Moroccans suffer or have suffered from psychological disorders. Of this percentage, around 25% experience depression and anxiety, while a smaller percentage have psychotic disorders such as hallucination,” explained Akrache.
Akrache noted that there remains a lack of awareness and understanding of psychological disorders among the Moroccan population. “For them, 48.9% elicit fears without realizing that psychological disorders encompass a wide spectrum of conditions, from nervous tics and insomnia to disorders that profoundly disrupt one’s daily life,” she further explained.
The Clinical Psychologist highlighted the trivialization of mental health issues on social media as one of the main challenges in addressing in Morocco. She noted that “People often confuse between depression and sadness, being temperamental and bipolar. They also mix things up, talking about narcissism and the inner child.”
Akrache warns against trivializing the matter, as it can lead people to feel guilty and receive advice when what they actually need is psychological care.
Talking about the accessibility of mental health services in Morocco, the Clinical Psychologist told MoroccoLatestNews that hospitals do offer public services, but the demand for them far exceeds the available resources. The country suffers from an acute shortage of psychiatrists.
The latest figures state that only 343 psychiatrists are working in both the public and private sectors, which is equivalent to one doctor per 100,000 people.
Akrache noted that “There is one psychiatrist for 100,000 inhabitants, and there 0. 25 psychiatrists for 10,000 residents,” adding, “Hospitalization should be accessible to everyone.” This showcases the dire need for expanding mental health infrastructure.
Unfortunately, although civil society offers psychological support through psychologists and psychiatrists, their services are largely concentrated in major cities, limiting access to the rest of the Moroccan population.
“The private sector does provide some services, with a few psychiatric clinics and facilities in major cities such as Casablanca and Rabat,” underscored Akrache.
The expert highlighted that the Moroccan government started taking the issues more seriously and is actively working to enhance its mental health infrastructure.
She said, “By 2025, there is a comprehensive plan to bolster both the infrastructure and the training required to effectively treat various mental disorders,” emphasizing that “there is a collaboration with civil society and NGOs, as well as awareness campaigns”, as part of the continuous efforts.
However, the stigma surrounding mental health in Morocco remains prevalent and can hinder individuals from seeking help.
In fact, there is a push to recognize that “There is no health without mental health,” shedding light on the interwovenness between mental and physical well-being.
The expert explained that mental health issues can still be perceived as an insult or a means to emotionally hurt someone.
Akrach said, “In Morocco, there is a tendency to label individuals with depression as spoiled, and changing one’s mind may be mistakenly associated with schizophrenia,” stressing “Sometimes we make connections which do not make sense.”
Statistically, the average number of doctors worldwide is 1.7 per 100,000 individuals. Due to the deficit in Morocco’s mental health sector, less than 400 psychiatrists visit 40% of Moroccans who have mental issues.
In April, Khaled Ait Taleb, the Health Minister, stated that there are 2,330 beds available in mental health facilities across the country. However, the scarcity of psychiatrists in the public sector has resulted in higher prices for care services in private clinics, making mental health care inaccessible for many Moroccans.
To address this deficit, the Moroccan government planned to enhance the mental health law and propose a national mental health strategy with the assistance of the World Health Organization between 2024 and 2030.
The Health Ministry also promised to train ten pediatric psychiatrists this year, and ten more are planned to be trained each year after that. It also promised to train 185 nurses and 30 psychiatrists yearly.
The government also increased funding and positions for the sector, placing mental health at the top of its list of priorities.
In 2022, the Health Ministry allocated around 83 million towards the budget for mental health medication.
To ensure mental health services are accessible to more people, the Ministry also planned to provide integrated psychiatric care in public hospitals and build three 120-bed mental health centers in Agadir, Kenitra, and Beni Mellal.
Despite these ongoing efforts, the Moroccan Government withdrew in September a draft law from the House of Representatives, related to combating mental disorders and protecting mentally ill or challenged individuals.
Sources told MoroccoLatestNews that the executive decided to withdraw the draft law from parliamentary deliberation without explicit or public reasons.
The mental healthcare draft law aimed to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals with mental disorders. It stressed respecting their dignity, privacy, and confidentiality of health information.
It also highlights the need for providing treatment in the least restrictive environment possible and identifies health institutions dedicated to preventing and treating mental disorders.