A young man, Muntazer Hamid Al-Thuwaini, a pharmacist working in a government hospital, is launching an application (talk), which is a mobile application through which he provides support and psychological support to those in need via the Internet.

“The complex political circumstances experienced by the Iraqi state since its establishment more than a century ago and until now have caused confusion and instability to be the prevailing state in society,” Muntazer talked about the reasons that inspired him to the idea of the project. Instability creates a culture that ignores the quality of life and its necessities, according to Muntazer. Mental health was one of the “most important absent necessities in society’s culture”; Therefore, the founder of the Bouh application, the pharmacist Muntazer Hamid Al-Thuwaini, believes that since time immemorial, Iraq has been the preferred home for wars, internal divisions, and external occupation, perhaps its geographical location and the curse of its black gold, which was imposed by those bad conditions on the economic or environmental level. But the events in Iraq are nothing compared to the terrifying surges they caused in the moods of these people and the deterioration of their mental health over the years, until the people’s culture itself warns of a sense of joy due to the possible disaster that follows, according to popular concepts and proverbs. From here, the circumstances surrounding the Iraqi people began to seem bleak most of the time, and from this came the bleakness of their minds. Where happiness has become unknown meaning, depression and despair is the well-known confidant.

There is another factor that made mental illness and contract more common and stronger, which is the marriage of relatives. As it is known, many mental illnesses have a genetic basis in addition to their acquired basis, and genetic mental illnesses are concentrated and the possibility of their appearance increases in the event of marriage of cousins, for example.

 Disastrous environmental conditions with common consanguineous marriage mean massive, terrifying mental illnesses and complexes, and catastrophic rates of suicide and drug abuse. Added to this mixture is poverty and culture regarding the importance of mental health. All this means the emergence of generations distorted by the moral system, with damaged minds.

Why Bouh App:

There was a group of motives that prompted Muntazer to launch the application, some of them personal and others objective. “My friend Ahmed committed suicide after a struggle with depression that lasted for ten years.” Ahmed’s parents were ashamed to see a psychiatrist for fear of social stigma. The psychological trauma pushed Muntazer to an intellectual revolution to explore the reason for his loss of his friend. Muntazer started with a set of questions: What are the residuals and complications? And what are the reasons? what is the solution? Why does society believe what it believes now? The result is psychotherapy without identity or names. Thus, Muntazer dedicates his initiative to his late friend, in honor of his memory.

Muntazer summarizes the reasons for neglecting mental health by two factors: social stigma and poverty. He addresses these problems through the application of Bouh, using the method of remote treatment, which solves the problem of social stigma. Especially since the applicant seeking guidance or treatment enters as an anonymous person. The sessions are provided by trained psychological counselors who hold degrees in psychology with symbolic wages to solve the problem of poverty.

The feasibility of online processing:

Diagnosis is the first step after building trust between the auditor and the therapist in psychotherapy, and to reach an accurate diagnosis, the therapist needs a set of steps to achieve an accurate diagnosis. From here, the method of treatment through the Internet is facing the question of feasibility? Psychiatrist Muhammad Mahdi Manakhour answers: “Online treatment is a very successful method,” because it transcends social stigma, and thus attracts large numbers of people in need of psychological services, who facilitate the provision of services to them without the need for complex infrastructure and in large numbers.

  For a comparison, there are an estimated 106,500 licensed psychologists in the United States, which makes the per capita percentage about 33.9 psychologists per 100,000 population according to the American Psychological Association. While the situation in Iraq is much worse. There are only 80 practicing psychiatrists in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, working alongside a limited number of junior psychiatrists, according to a report prepared by OCHA and the Peace Empowerment Center in Iraq in 2017.

“the patient only needs someone to listen to him when expressing his feelings verbally in most cases, especially in their early stages,” according to Muhammad, which helps the therapist treat mild and moderate cases of depression and anxiety for example.

What did the application achieve?

About three months after the launch of the initiative, members of the Bouh application team evaluated the results they had achieved. “Within three months of opening the application, the number of sessions and users has skyrocketed,” Muntazer says with a wide smile. And he continues, “Day after day, we discover the extent to which members of society need such an application,” as the number of online sessions reached about a thousand sessions with three thousand users. It seems that the application usage indicator is increasing, as the data analyzed by the application team indicates the age and gender groups. Almost 75% of the application users are women between the ages of (18-34) years. Most of them have been subjected to domestic violence, harassment or bullying, and many of them have been subjected to sexual violence by their father or brother. The victims are unable to speak out because they were threatened to be killed under the pretext of honor killings. While the remaining aproaximatly 25% are males. Males cases varied between sexual harassment during childhood, bullying, addiction, gender identity disorder, or fear of exposing their homosexual tendencies, which would result in killing by the dominant social forces, such as the tribes, for example.

 The Bouh app has so far succeeded in convincing three girls to refrain from committing suicide, according to Muntazer. The therapists also created channels of communication between many girls and women’s rights organizations in order to find a suitable shelter for them.

The future of the Bouh application:

The founder of the application, Muntazar Al-Thuwaini, fears that his efforts to establish this application will be lost and that his initiative will collapse due to the lack of support from institutions and individuals. The unexpected expansion of the number of users and sessions dictates the need to develop the application quickly. This support needs financial support, as such applications need the effort of institutions or companies. So far, Muntader has been developing the application using his monthly income, in addition to the donations specified by the users. That is why Muntazer and his colleagues in the initiative turn to the visual, audio and written media as an urgent necessity to find the appropriate funder. “The financier must be interested in changing the lives of Iraqi youth for the better,” Muntazer is a condition for accepting grants. Zahraa al-Tamimi, one of the application’s therapists, also points out that “the application needs to be developed and other features added that help applicants seeking treatment in expressing their problems and their psychological history.”

VIAMuhammad Abd al-Ridha - researcher from Iraq