The roar of poverty pushes Egyptians to psychological illness and crime

August 20, 2019

Crimes committed by so-called psychological patients in Egypt have increased. Scientific research conducted by the National Centre for Criminal and Social Research in Cairo has revealed that 25 per cent of the Egyptian population has various psychological symptoms.

According to scientific research, psychological illness has risen in the last five years due to economic and social pressures and increased poverty among large segments of the population.

At the end of July, Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) announced that poverty rates in the country rose to 32.5 per cent of the population by the end of the 2017/18 fiscal year, compared to 27.8 per cent in 2015/16.

The results showed that the current pressure has led some to abuse drugs and intoxicants in order to forget, while others commit suicide or commit serious crimes, such as murder and rape.

The research revealed that 60 per cent of people with psychological illnesses are considering suicide and 20 per cent carry out serious crimes including murder, rape and incest.

The National Institute for Criminal and Social Researches demanded the Egyptian government agencies responsible take action to cope with the high number of these patients by admitting them to psychiatric hospitals.

The judiciary has said that there is no solution to stopping these crimes because they have already sent between 100 and 150 people to the psychiatric hospital in Abbasiya (east Cairo) in just one year, after they were detained in criminal cases including murder, attempted murder, and substance abuse.

They were placed under medical observation based on a decision by the judiciary to determine their mental wellbeing. Doctors confirmed that dozens of inmates suffer from serious psychological disorders and health problems, and that some of them died due to lack of care.

Poverty rates among Egyptians have increased since the Egyptian regime began economic reform in November 2016, with the Egyptian pound losing 50 per cent of its value against the dollar. Egypt depends mostly on imports, which means that the purchasing power of Egyptians has declined by almost half.

Egypt’s Minister of Planning, Hala El-Said, confessed that the main reason for the rise in poverty rates by 4.7 per cent during the period 2016 to 2018 is the implementation of the economic reform programme in the same period, which came at a high cost for Egyptian society and the state.

Psychological disorders in Egypt are much higher than the global average with the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimating that one in 10 people worldwide suffers from a psychological disorder. Nevertheless, professor of psychiatry at Al-Azhar University, Dr Mohamed El-Mahdy, confirms the absence of accurate figures on psychiatric patients in Egypt.

Al-Mahdi’s statements cast doubt on the figures announced and confirms the increasing number of psychiatric patients. He pointed out that the number of psychiatrists is low, reaching only 2,000 doctors, and confirms that some exploited the lack of doctors and psychiatric hospitals to establish treatment centres without a license from the National Council for Mental Health, to treat addiction and psychological illness.

Observers say that the figures announced by the National Centre for Criminal and Social Research in Cairo are more than a year old, and that poverty rates increased during that year, as well as the rates of psychological disorders.

Psychiatrists assert that the prevailing general culture in Egypt still considers mental or psychological disorder as shameful, so often the patient or his family resort to hiding it or denying it completely. This means that the reported numbers are much lower than the actual numbers and that people with psychological disorders may actually be twice as high.