Lebanon: Hakim, 'Living conditions are very difficult; I don't think there's anyone who finds them tolerable'

Sometimes, when someone says hello, you want to start a fight with them
© Dina Debbas

I am a Lebanese of Palestinian origin – I was naturalised in 1948. I am divorced and have two daughters from my previous marriage. They both go to school. I moved to the camp three-and-a-half years ago after I lost my job and my financial situation deteriorated.

Living conditions here are very difficult; I don’t think there’s anyone who finds them tolerable. Houses are overcrowded and built close together; zinc roofs cause temperatures to rise in the summer and drop sharply in the winter; the infrastructure is nearly non-existent; and there is very little privacy in people’s personal lives, which makes everyone seem short-tempered. Sometimes, when someone says hello, you want to start a fight with them.

I was introduced to MSF randomly one day, while at the UNRWA clinic. They were distributing brochures that described the symptoms related to mental health disorders. The brochure said: ‘If you have one of these symptoms, you should consult a therapist’. When I read it, I laughed to myself because I realised I had them all.

After speaking to the community health worker, she advised me to visit the MSF centre and gave me an appointment, so I went. I was deeply shocked and worried at the seriousness of my illness. If I had continued in this condition, without MSF’s help, I might well have gone on to kill myself and my daughters.