Mental health problems, like the vast majority of physiological illnesses, are curable or, at least, controllable. Treatment or control of the problem, however, is primarily dependant upon the acknowledgement of its existence and the subsequent seeking of professional help. Within the Arab Middle East, as is the case with regions, countries and cultures across the world, there exists a persistent unwillingness to admit to the presence of a mental health problem or, at least, to acknowledge its existence to the point of seeking curative treatment. As Professor Loza (2006) explains, despite the fact that there are some very good mental health facilities and professionals in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, it is incredibly rare for a Saudi or a Kuwaiti national to seek treatment within his home country. The stigma associated with mental health problems makes it virtually impossible for many to tolerate the notion of the social isolation/exclusion that would inevitably result from the acknowledgement of such a problem. Accordingly, when the mental health problem reaches the point where it is debilitating and difficult to conceal, the sufferer's family only agree to treatment if that treatment is received from outside the home country and anonymously. Needless to say, many cannot afford this treatment option and, so, the vast majority are either left untreated which, as bad as that is, is infinitely preferable to the widely popular practice of self-medication and treatment (Loza, 2006).
The stigmatisation of mental health is a formidable obstacle to treatment. Fearing stigmatisation, sufferers are reluctant to admit their condition and seek help. Family, friends, employees and society at large, plays an active role in helping to ensure that this reluctance is maintained and transformed into an outright refusal to admit to the problem and seek treatment. Needless to say, mental health professionals have repeatedly addressed this problem and have outlined strategies for the resolution of the stigma surrounding mental health complaints and conditions, believing that upon the elimination of stigmatisation, access to treatment will be facilitated. A World Health Organisation (2001) White Paper on the stigmatisation of mental health argues that the nursing profession, primarily mental health nurses, must play a more active role in the elimination of the stigma surrounding mental health problems. A critical analysis of the nursing intervention strategies outlined for the confrontation, and the removal of the stigma surrounding mental health illnesses indicates that several of the proposed intervention strategies can play a positive and constructive role in the reduction of the mentioned stigma but that its removal is a long-term process which requires much more than nursing intervention.
This research shall argue that nursing intervention strategies can play an invaluable role in the reduction of the stigma surrounding mental health. Within the context of the Middle East, at least, the reduction of the stigma will help sufferers admit to their problem and actively seek treatment. However, upon tracing the background relationship between stigma and disease and the