Online therapy: Breaking barriers to mental health care

Online Therapy Meeting  woman
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When it comes to seeking help or support for mental health issues, barriers often come up. Factors such as availability and affordability of mental health care, lack of societal awareness, and stigmas surrounding mental health can pose additional hurdles for those struggling. These barriers actively affect Jordanians, inhibiting their access to mental health services. Online therapy can be a beneficial option for Jordanians who are seeking help or struggling with their mental health. اضافة اعلان

In 2008, Jordan was identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a country needing intense support for strengthening mental health care. As a result, WHO partnered with the Ministry of Health and the Jordanian Nursing Council to reform the mental health system.

Since that time, however, it could be argued that the mental health crisis in Jordan has not improved. Since 2008, estimates of the number of people living with a mental health disorder in Jordan have been consistently high. One study conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic found that 25.4 percent of Jordanians have a moderate mental health disorder and an additional 11.4 percent have a severe mental health disorder. The reasons behind Jordan’s high occurrence of mental health disorders are unclear, but some contributing factors have been identified.

These factors include stigmas, lack of awareness, and financial struggles, which can lead individuals to delay treatment visits, stop treatment altogether, or neglect their medication. One study found that Jordanians who encountered such symptoms reported stigmas as the leading factor (41 percent). This was followed by a lack of awareness (19.42 percent) and financial issues (13.58 percent).

Another study examined the extent of stigma as a barrier to mental health reform. A significant subset of participants held negative stereotypes, thinking, for example, that individuals with mental health disorders are a danger to others, are unpredictable, or are difficult to talk to. Additionally, a large percentage of participants believed that individuals are responsible for their mental health conditions and that those who suffer from such conditions will never recover. The study pointed to a “vicious cycle” in which stigmas decrease the likelihood of seeking treatment, with a lack of treatment options leading to worsened mental health, ultimately strengthening prejudices.

Benefits of online help
The internet offers more accessible help for those suffering from mental health disorders. However, medication cannot be prescribed via online therapy. Online resources include both therapy and self-help, but online treatment providers cannot prescribe medication. Nevertheless, in some cases, this may not be an issue.

One study found that, for conditions such as anxiety and depression, there is little to no difference between therapy and medication as treatment options. In fact, therapy may be a better treatment option in certain conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. Nevertheless, certain mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, require medication. In these cases, wide-scale public reform must occur for individuals to receive the treatment they need.

Conditions such as depression and anxiety make up the bulk of mental health disorders, and those who suffer from these conditions could benefit greatly from online help. These sources allow patients to seek the help they need discreetly, assisting in breaking the barriers of availability, affordability, awareness, and stigma. 

Online therapy sessions
Online therapy sessions are one option for online help. Such sessions connect individuals with licensed and specialized therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Therapy sites usually require online payment, and most sources use English as the primary language, which may cause difficulties for Jordanian natives. However, care providers who are not Jordanians or other Arab nationals may find it difficult to understand the social and cultural stigmas surrounding mental health issues. Several online resources are available to address these barriers to care.

Arab Therapy is an online therapy program that connects individuals with highly qualified, Arabic-speaking psychologists and psychiatrists worldwide. Therapists offer weekly video or audio sessions and 24/7 messaging via private messaging. This service also allows for anonymity, as patients are not required to provide their real names. Prices are listed as $29.99 for the first week and $59.99 for subsequent sessions.

Ayadi is an online service that pairs individuals with a psychologist or psychiatrist of their choosing. The therapists available through this service have at least a master’s degree and three years of experience. Over 50 Ayadi therapists are bilingual in Arabic and English and other languages such as French and Farsi. Additionally, the website provides free resources and articles on various mental health-related topics. The app, which is available on the Apple and Google stores, offers a full list of therapists along with information on their experience, pricing, languages, and specialties.

Shezlong offers free tests online for stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. After completing the relevant testing, therapists will be suggested. From there, patients can choose their care provider based on language, credentials, and pricing. Shezlong has the best pricing of these three therapy platforms.

Online self-help:
For those who struggle with affordability, there are many online self-help resources. Individuals can educate themselves on specific topics and how to take the first steps in managing their conditions. These sources are often free and are available in many languages, including Arabic.

Mindfulness in Arabic is a free, eight-week course created by volunteers that teach mindfulness. It was specifically designed for Arabic-speaking refugees but is available for all. The course is provided in both Arabic and English and instructs individuals on how to practice mindfulness. The course can be downloaded via pdf. Online support is available for those who have difficulty getting started.

The Multicultural Mental Health Resource Center is a Canadian platform that has information and resources on many mental health-related topics in Arabic, English, and French. It provides links that can be downloaded as word documents, with information on depression, anxiety, stress, psychosis, and substance abuse. The center also provides documents that address problem-solving, anger management, and mindfulness.

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