Photography // ahmed-kadry.com

Ahmed Kadry, recently known for his superb coverage of the Egyptian National Football Team’s Media, discusses the main issues behind the storming mental health crisis in Egypt and the Arab world.

It was a great pleasure to speak with Ahmed, an individual who has overcome, arguably, one of the most daunting challenges our generation currently faces: pursuing an unconventional dream. His was photography and filmmaking.

Initially, we got in contact with Kadry during Befit360’s training sessions in Hacienda Bay, during summer 2018. We asked if he was willing to contribute to Empower Mag’s Break The Silence Interview Series, to raise awareness for mental health & wellbeing in the region and he was very surprised upon the request!

Ahmed: Ally I’m surprised as to why Mental Health? Ishme3na?

Ally: Saea7a marit be kaza tagroba mish laziza during my years in Toronto, studying.

And I’ve been realizing I wasn’t the only one.

I realized so many differences between the culture in Canada and Egypt.

One thing struck me: the openness is the only difference between both societies.

And it’s the openness in societies that make us able to cope up with the extra stressors we face in our lives today.

I couldn’t believe that one day I wouldn’t have the physical strength to get out of bed. It was like my body was paralyzed. I never imagined mental health can have that much of an impact on a person. My body failing on me, uncontrollably, just by a simple trigger & a spiral of thoughts; That was an eye opener for me.

Ya Ahmed I’m a former professional swimmer; never in a million years would I have ever imagined that I was ever gonna breakdown mentally. I was born to compete.

Mental health doesn’t differentiate between people. Just like viruses. They attack haphazardly if you aren’t well-equipped. That’s what I learned.

Ahmed: You know, it’s not the regular topic you discuss with someone, but I’m so interested to share a conversation I really believe in. Let me talk to you about it from my perspective.

Look, we both know the facts. It still it remains a taboo in our culture and many people never talk about it. That is the entire reason behind our struggling society.

Ally: That’s exactly why awareness is the only way we can overcome this fear and stigma. Especially by talking to influential people and opening a conversation with them.

Ahmed: I totally agree and I’m so happy that you are doing that. It’s about time. I hope my input adds value. But please bear with me, as your older brother… I will tell you everything with no filters..

Do You Believe in Mental Health?

Ahmed: Akid tab3an… bas let me talk to you from a realistic point of view, my Egyptian upbringing.

Unfortunately  people look at it as shameful. Men think it’s shameful to speak about.

But let me tell you one fact… No one goes through life without a mental health related issue!

Let’s both agree that our society still views this as a taboo and that’s why people commit suicide.

It’s because people have no one to talk to and their loneliness leads to hopelessness.

If I’m a person going through anxiety or depression, and have no one to listen to – It would be the end of the world for me – and that’s the biggest issue in Egypt.

When there is no comfort around, living becomes a burden and one finds no reason in living anymore.

You never know what that person you see in front of you is going through…

By simply smiling you can change someone’s life.

I’m not generalizing it of-course, some people indeed need therapy, however something as simple as a small gesture as a smile can save someone’s life.

Ahmed’s Life-Changing Story

Ahmed: This is a real life story of a friend of mine, who’s very well-known, but let’s keep his identity confidential for the purposes of the interview.

He swears by this. He was once walking in the streets of Paris when one person came up to him, completely suicidal. He claimed to have no other way of feeding his family other than accepting a very degrading job, which he couldn’t forgive himself for doing.

He simply saw no way out… Ally when he bumped into my friend, god knows how close that man was from committing suicide.

All my friend could do was simply pat him on the chest and give him a very warm hug and a heartfelt piece of advice. Again, nothing special.

My friend then strongly urged him to listen to his simple advice and not to take away his life. He then gave him his number to ensure that if anything was needed he would be there.

Ally… you wouldn’t believe it.

9 years pass by… and my friend gets a call from a +33 number. France.

He picked up. He was shocked.

The man had waited all that time to simply call my friend, to tell him that he left his miserable job, started a business and was a completely different person because of their brief encounter.

He told him “You know you did something no one else in the world has ever done to me?”

“No one had ever shown me that compassion ever in my life. You are the first man to hug me at a time I was in deep need of… everything.”

“You gave me life. And I can never repay you back”

Ally can you imagine… Ally can you just imagine for a second.. When we meet other people randomly in the streets, we barely even remember their names afterwards…

Can you imagine how powerful a simple gesture can be?

So what I’m trying to say is that we do not understand how vital the issue is.

With mental health and our culture; It’s ignorance more than anything.

Ally: That’s because people only pay attention to mental health from a religious standpoint and disregard any other viewpoints. And that’s wrong!

Ahmed: Of course, and that is very contradictory because our religion emphasizes the importance of mental health and being compassionate. Again, it’s total ignorance.

Social Media & its Drawbacks on Mental Health

Ahmed: I would like to talk about the drawbacks on social media on the mental health of the younger generation here in Egypt.

The digital world has created huge illusion – you can call it fakeness – that it overwhelms the younger generation that doesn’t have the right awareness to balance the reality of digital world.

Social media has created an illusion of an ideal world we ought to live in. A 13 year old now is modelling Kim Kardashian. People are not living their age and that sense of comparison creates an extreme state of frustration simply because we are never achieving the perceived perfection that we see on social media.

That sense of comparison – that happens subconsciously – has tormented the younger generation’s mind.

How Can We Combat That Issue, Ahmed?

Ahmed: Tab3an the parents, Ally.

At the end of the day, its your child that comes back home to you and there must be a clear understanding between the parents and kids!

Also not spoiling the kids, how can a 13 year old now have access to technologies that lead to serious consequences? 

Parents are always in need to monitor the use of kid’s internet use. They can easily fall prey to many traps. Remember that online game, “Blue Whale was it called?”, when a series of people had to kill themselves to complete the game?

I mean that’s just an extreme case but in others aspects, the abusive use of technology is detrimental to the generation growing up. Their mental health is at huge stake.

What bothers me the most is that parents are the ones who aren’t involved in their kids’ lives.

The Dilemma: Who Are The Victims?

Ally: Then we run into the issue of Egypt’s 60% divorce rate. So it’s an issue from both ends….

Here comes the question, Who are the victims?

Ahmed: The kids of course.

You just simply never know what a 14 year old is surfing the internet doing, or what illusion he may give into that can harm his mind. No different than that suicide game.

It’s just dangerous without parental control. Kids do not have the right awareness, the experience and no advice from mature individuals..

So What Would You Tell Anyone Struggling Right Now?

First of all, its no shame whatsoever.

Lazim tetkalim. Ba3d ma netkalim newaagid 7elool.

Mafish haga fel dony adi malhash hal.

Kol mashakil mahama kanit laha hal. Kol had lazim yela2y had yefadfad ma3ah.

El social support group dah mofta7 el sir.

Ana min el no3 ele lama haga tkon meday2ani lazim atkalim ma3 7ad.

Ana law shelt ele gowaya hanfagir. Fa you have to talk openly with someone you trust.

Why go too far Ally, Family should always be your number 1 source.

Ally: I agree Ahmed, that’s very true in an ideal situation.

However sometimes, us kids, can feel very estranged towards our parents.

Not everyone has an open bond with their father or mother.

Or how about this for example, a girl going through a relationship, and is desperately in need for advice or help. Despite being extremely close to her father, will she risk losing his respect if he is a type of father who isn’t open to the idea of her seeing someone?

You see the struggle?


Ahmed: Parents have to know that it’s their duty and obligation to befriend and unconditionally accept & love their kids. I agree Ally. That’s why our society struggles in silence.

Ally: Also, sometime people choose the wrong people to open up to. Not everyone can give the right advice. Sometimes seeking advice from the wrong friend can be detrimental.

We must know how to choose the right people to open up to because not everyone is capable of helping us.

That’s really it Ahmed.

Ahmed: I am so grateful we spoke habibi.

Let us see you when you come back to Egypt!

Please let us know who you would like us interview next in our BreakTheSilence Interview series! For inquiries, you can reach us at [email protected].