Copyright // Khaled Marzouk

Nesma El Shazly is, hands down, one of Egypt’s most inspiring women. As a mother, wife and an  entrepreneur, her journey is one many relate too. Ever since the passing of her younger brother, a major turning point which took years to recover from, she has bounced back fiercer than ever.

After our fifteen minute call, we were smiling at how far she has come. Nesma now owns Stardust PR Agency and is the executive producer for Hisham Kharma, one of Egypt’s very fine talents in music.

We started our conversation aiming our attention on Mental Health in Egypt.

First of all, do you believe in Mental Health and how much attention do you give it in your daily life?

I believe in it a lot.

Unfortunately I don’t give it attention as much as I’d like to.

I lead a very hectic life, running all day between my job, taking care of the kids, the house and my husband.

Life in Egypt is very demanding and we all lead hectic lives. That, however, doesn’t mean that we don’t take care of our mental health. We must always give it as much attention as much as we can afford to.

Some days it slips.

That’s okay so long as you are aware that the situation is only temporary.

Knowing Nesma for a while, her efforts have been very active speaking out on mental health, claiming that it has become a much more acceptable topic in Egypt. She speaks about how Egyptians have become more tolerant to accepting those with mental diseases, such as depression, after the occurrence of multiple suicide incidents in the community.

Can you comment on the topic of Mental Health and Youth in Egypt?

It is no longer a taboo that was heavily stigmatized.

I think people are more aware now than before.

People have lately accepted the idea of therapy and reaching out for help.

We have heard that the suicide rate is now alarming.

It’s not a minor issue. It’s been much common recently as we now see many people of all ages struggle form the same disorders.

Depression is becoming very common. Across various age groups for different purposes.

It is very eye opening as well.

Professionals are becoming much more accessible than before.

There are much more support groups in the community that help.

They have more people to relate you. It’s been great recently!

Now it’s way more acceptable than before.

It’s not a taboo anymore & no longer “3eib”.

As life’s becoming more stressful we see it more common that people are experiencing the same types of emotional waves.

Also, we must understand that mental illnesses are not gonna go away when someone goes away for a weekend. It’s much more serious. That’s why it needs attention and support.

We decided to ask Nesma a question that many avoid, due to the sensitivity of the topic.

Nesma, Could you also comment on the Mental Health of young men in Egypt?

Well, women are more comfortable expressing mental issues.

Men are still embarrassed to talk openly. They don’t admit that they need help.

Women understand the concepts very well as we are emotional beings.

There is one incident I would like to mention.

Having two boys, I can speak for my 7 year old, Adam. I watch for the change of his behaviour. His personality type is very calm, kind and sensitive. However when he has tantrums, I always investigate the cause. There is always something behind any signs of discomfort.

When he was 4 years old, he would get nightmares regularly. He’d shout when he’s asleep.

It was like there was something extremely bothering him. I later discovered that there was a specific kid at school that was bullying him. After this incident we went to the school and we dealt with it.

The issue of bullying in schools is heavily correlated with mental health related diseases, as many schools now apply rigorous programs to help eliminate bullying. It’s a major threat that leaves children with life-scarring experiences, deeply affecting them throughout the remainder of their lives.

Finally, What message would you say to parents or people experiencing severe emotional disorders in Egypt? Advice/tips?

Parenting, we are new at this, we are all trying our best to raise our kids well disciplined.

However I’d like to direct my answer more towards people facing any emotional discomfort and not necessary “illnesses”.

If you are feeling down, demotivated for a prolonged period of time.. Once you feel you have nothing to look forward to… this is an alarming signal, this must be a sign for you to seek help.

I have been in deep depression for 2 years, grieving over my brother, who passed away in a crash.

It took me an entire year to heal.

I needed to get well to take care of my kids and my life. I sought help.

I had to acknowledge the fact that I needed it.

I say this with no shame. Neither should you. It helps significantly and it works.

Final Notes

On a personal note, as Ally Salama, on behalf of Empower Mag, we’d like to thank Nesma for her heartfelt contribution to a cause we believe is vital. Despite rescheduling this conversation more than once due to conflicting schedules, we thank her for her time helping us to raise awareness for mental health in 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].