Bringing McLean’s Deconstructing Stigma Work to the Middle East
January 26, 2024
Stuart Katz’s job literally takes him around the world. “Between 15 and 22 countries annually, I visited 22 in 2022,” said the CEO of New York-based TAL Tours. But in addition to checking out hotel and tourist amenities, Katz added another topic to his itineraries after a family member received care at McLean Hospital.
“In just about every country I visit, I try to familiarize myself with the mental health situation,” he said. “Mental health is either really bad or really good. But rarely is it anywhere in between.”
This includes Israel, where Katz has made his home for nearly 13 years. The Middle East nation’s history has produced what he calls a “macho” national personality that is reticent about mental health.
“Israelis are macho,” Katz said, explaining that the actual Hebrew word more closely translates to hero.
“The real hero is the one who’s going to speak up about their mental health, their mental illness, and their mental well-being. The real heroes are not only the ones flexing muscles and on the front lines of war. The real heroes are also on the front line of mental health and speaking up. ‘I’m living with depression. I’m anxious. I have OCD. I have an eating disorder.’ Those people are real heroes too.”
Katz sees similar challenges around mental health concerns among his Arab neighbors, especially when it comes to the perception of stigma surrounding getting care.
“We see a lot of similarities in mental health stigma in Israel and in the Arab world. And we can combat it together. We have a responsibility to combat it. That’s the war we should fight, not each other.”