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Professional News
Pendulum Shifted Mood From Despair to Hope
Psychiatric News
Volume 46 Number 7 page 24-24

Even before January 25, many psychiatrists in Egypt expressed their opposition to the Mubarak regime, said APA member Ahmed Okasha, M.D., Ph.D., in an e-mail interview from Cairo.

Okasha is a professor at the Okasha Institute of Psychiatry at Ain Shams University, the president of the Egyptian Psychiatric Association, and a former president of the World Psychiatric Association.

Members of the Egyptian Psychiatric Association took part in the demonstrations in Tahrir Square, although not to provide their professional services, said Okasha.

"The youth in the square were so proud, so enthusiastic, so thrilled with their achievement that they did not need psychiatric support," said Okasha. "They wanted the people's support, which actually was the pivotal element in the success of the demonstrations."

For years, the majority of Egyptians felt intimidated, humiliated, helpless, and hopeless, he said.

"They felt they lived in Egypt but were not Egyptians, living in the regime's country, not their own," he said. "So they were self-centered, indifferent, and passive."

Political prisoners were jailed and mistreated under the Mubarak regime, but remained untreated until they were released from prison, he said. Psychiatrists and human-rights activists were not allowed to visit them.

The recent events shifted concerns from the personal to the political, which may ultimately prove beneficial to the individual, he said.

"Whenever there is a national target, individuals shift from self-centeredness to focusing on the larger goal and on others," said Okasha.

"Those youth in Tahrir Square changed the pendulum from despair to hope, from humiliation to self-respect, dignity, and pride," he said. "Everybody felt proud of being an Egyptian."

The Egyptian Psychiatric Association's disaster section will investigate and evaluate the psychological sequelae among the demonstrators and other citizens, he said.

"This revolution, although first directed at the citizen's human rights, will expand to include the human rights of the mental patient," said Okasha. "Civilization does not depend on political, military, or economic power but on how to care for the weak: the child, the elderly, and the mental patient."

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