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Action Against Hunger’s Mental Health and Care Practices (MHCP) team work with different Primary Medical Centers to help spread awareness to health workers about the different techniques and tools to help assist people who have psychological and mental health disorders by offering them different trainings and workshops.
Action Against Hunger also engages with local community based organizations (CBOs) by training their members on mental health and best care practices through awareness raising. Some of the cases that the MHCP team has come across are psychosis, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and self-harm symptoms.
One of the women who is spreading awareness about the prevention of suicide through this project is Ameera, the President of Our Step “Kutwitna”, a local non-profit organization based in Zarqa, which provides civil support for mental health and psychosocial cases around Jordan. “I used to be a housewife and a mother to children,” said Ameera. “I never worked any kind of work.”
"I was able to discover that I had a psychological disability and because of this, my life was turned upside down"
She is also a representative for people with mental disabilities with the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Through this, Ameera was able to gain experience and explained that, “I was able to discover that I had a psychological disability and because of this, my life was turned upside down before I gained self-independence before entering the working field,” explained Ameera.
Ameera was also one of the speakers who shared with guests and Action Against Hunger staff about her experience with battling suicidal thoughts during the World Mental Health Day activities Action Against Hunger arranged on 10 October last year in Irbid. These activities are part of Action Against Hunger’s “Empowerment of Syrian Crisis-Affected Iraq Internal Displaced Populations and Institutions of Neighboring Governments”, the mission’s first MHCP project, which is part of a multi-sectoral WaSH and MHCP intervention funded by Agence Française de Développment (AFD) and the European Union’s Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian crisis, the ‘Madad’ Fund.
From the beginning, Ameera did not know what she was experiencing and that she could be suffering from a mental health issue. She just knew that something was wrong. “I knew I needed someone to stand by my side and help me because at this stage, I could not even help myself,” said Ameera with tears in her eyes as she recalled the path she once walked.
However, people did not take kindly to her struggles. “People would tell me that I was cursed or that people targeted me with negative or malicious intentions,” said Ameera. She consulted many community and religious leaders and tried personal coping strategies, but her feeling did not improve and she began to feel depressed. “This situation began to grow and pile up,” she said. “I began to feel suffocated until I went and consulted a mental health doctor after the first time I tried to commit suicide.” 
After being released from the hospital, Ameera continued feeling depressed. This was worsened by her husband’s lack of understanding for her situation and feelings. “He believed that I was sane and just being lazy”. This led her to contemplate suicide again.
Even though she felt depressed, Ameera had a change of heart when she dug into her religion and found solace with some of the religious teachings. Slowly, this notion of suicide began to fade from her sub consciousness. She knew that she had enough of suffering and she had to change the way she was living. “This made me step back and refocus my thinking,” she said. “I knew that I had a problem, I needed help.”
She took an appointment with a private mental health doctor who was specialized in treating psychological and mental health cases. Due to the high costs, she had to consult public health centers in the area she was living in. In 2009, these public health centers focused on spreading awareness on what mental health was and the best care practices.
The World Health Organization began working on spreading awareness on mental health and working on ways to create pathways to treat mental health cases around Jordan. “They were looking for someone who had previously suffered from a mental health issue to adopt this idea,” said Ameera. “I was one of the people who adopted this idea and through this my friends and I started the process to establish this through Kutwitna.”
After working for 10 years, her vision and focus changed towards helping people battling mental health problems. Ameera spoke to the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. “I told them that we have to build a connection between people with mental disabilities,” Ameera said with determination. “We tried to be part of the community that represents people with disabilities.”
"I, as a person with a mental disability, started to think about my rights as a person with a disability"
There is no typical day for Ameera as the head of the organization. Sometimes her days begin by visiting the Ministry of Social Development and others with her giving trainings to other women or presenting a new project the organization is developing. One of the projects they are developing focuses on working with refugees with mental health and psychological disabilities. “They need peers to help them understand and acknowledge that they have a psychological problem,” she said, “To advise them on how to get the proper medical support.”
Ameera was thrilled when she got the chance to participate in workshops and trainings hosted by Action Against Hunger. “When an organization such as this one calls you to talk about psychological support, you know you are moving in the right direction,” beamed Ameera. “It is always wonderful meeting others who are striving and believing in the work that I am working towards.”
When she was asked to share her story during World Mental Health Day, she felt as if she were over the moon. She believes it is important to always have someone supporting you during this journey as an anchor when you are on the verge of contemplating suicide. “It is extremely important in that moment that a person needs support from people who are close to [them] from [their] society in order for them to overcome this obstacle,” explained Ameera.
“It is extremely important to acknowledge and confront your demons,” said Ameera. “From my experience I learned that if you have this doubt in yourself then the people around you will doubt you as well.” She is known around her neighborhood as a woman who was struggling with a mental illness and received treatment. People stopped talking about her or whispering behind her back that she was crazy and stopped calling her mentally sick, as mental illness continues to be very socially stigmatized in Jordan. “I am not ashamed to talk about it in public,” Ameera said proudly. “This plays a huge role in the power you hold.”
Ameera is viewed by her society and the women she works with as a role model and as a woman who gives a voice to the voiceless. The journey she took has affected her life and the work that she is achieving at Kutwitna. Ameera would travel from Zarqa to Irbid to participate in mental health and care practices activities that Action Against Hunger hosted for community based organization members as well as participating in activities during the World Mental Health Day. Her personal experience made her the perfect person to reach out and discuss these sensitive topics with the community, under the guidance and support from Action Against Hunger.
"I have transformed into a working woman who is making a difference in her society and who is fighting for a cause she is passionate about"
Due to the path she walked on and with the skills she obtained through the activities and workshops she participated in hosted by Action Against Hunger, she is now part of the Committee for Psychological Health in Jordan, she has become an advocate for such an important cause, her financial status changed, she began to support others and projects are being implemented. “You can say that there was a 180 degree change from the depressed Ameera I once was to the Ameera I am today,” said Ameera with laughter in her voice.
 Action Against Hunger kept the quote as Ameera (interviewee) stated, as we prefer to maintain the specify of her choice of words. Action Against Hunger recognizes that individuals may die from suicide but we aim to remove negative stereotypes associated with using terms such as “committed” to avoid laying blame on the individual.
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