You probably have heard of the Egyptian show aired last Ramadan on Shahid VIP, and has taken the Arab world by a storm. ‘Khali Balek Men Zizi’ is shedding light on ADHD, mental Health and therapy, and we are absolutely here for it! The show was one of the few Arabic shows out there shedding light on these mental health related topics that are not commonly addressed on Arabic TV. It takes you on a wild ride from the get-go on Zizi’s life who is played by Egyptian actress Amina Khalil. Zizi’s character is diagnosed with ADHD which stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This was the main theme tackled in the show, amongst others like therapy, divorce, and the role and expectation of a woman.
Before Zizi’s diagnosis was made clear on the show, her character was initially highly criticized on social media, with viewers claiming that she has a very annoying personality. In general, the social reaction to the show has helped clarify the issue surrounding the stigma of mental illness in the Middle East and how it is always perceived as a negative thing. In numerous Arab countries mental illness ranging from anxiety, depression to ADHD are all looked down upon. Some claim it does not make sense, and others think that mental health issues simply do not exist, and that it’s just a hoax. In the Arab world, there are various misconceptions about mental health issues. For example, instead of believing that an individual can struggle with depression, they would categorize it as sad. Instead of believing that someone might have OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), society would categorize it as crazy, or being too overly dramatic. In a lot of ways, the show is breaking down these stereotypes, and bringing the harsh truth to the surface. The creators of the show hope that with ‘Khali Balek Men Zizi’ being one of the first shows to portray mental illness and put an emphasis on the importance of taking care of one’s mental health in such a way that more Arab shows come through, and the negative outlook can slowly change.
In an interview with Amina Khalil, she said that she felt honoured in playing such a complex role and that the show ‘Khali Balek Men Zizi’ is shedding light on ADHD, mental health and therapy making the role even more meaningful. She has been vocal about the show’s portrayal of her character, and mentioned if there is a chance that people can relate to Zizi’s character in any way then the show is clearly doing something right. She spoke about how preparing for Zizi’s role was such a beautiful and complex journey. One of the writers, Mona El Shimy is also a psychologist so she did an excellent job writing little key words on the scripts claiming if certain words, or actions are a trigger for ADHD patients, which to Amina was very helpful. She also mentioned her team of writers, and the whole crew behind the show was also very passionate about this project, which is important to shed light on numerous taboo topics that are usually not openly discussed in the average Arab household.
When asked if Amina was afraid of playing a role, and representing a disorder such as ADHD so publicly on T.V? She simply said she was not because the proper research, and facts were collected, all that was left was to embody it, and start acting. She pointed out since the show’s release, the amount of people that have come up to her, or even messaged her and said that they relate to Zizi, and her character comforts them is outstanding. She even cried at times reading the messages she received, knowing Zizi’s character had such a positive impact on people’s lives.
As far as mental illness goes, the Arab world has taken a few steps forward. There has been a rise in the number of people pursuing psychology related professions. More mental health facilities are being recognized and opened. Facilities started using proper therapy treatments made for each patient like CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), music, painting, and more. We can appreciate there have been steps made in a positive direction, and we hope that one day the negative connotation behind mental health issues can be long forgotten. We couldn’t be happier, and excited about how the show ‘Khali Balek Men Zizi’ is shedding light on ADHD, mental health and therapy and hope you all can enjoy watching in on Shahid VIP.
by Mariam Asif – YLT Staff