Elissa’s podcast tackles mental health taboo in the Arab world: ‘You do not know how strong you are until you face adversity’

The Lebanese pop star reveals she has been seeing a therapist for more than a decade

epa07299454 Lebanese singer Elissa performs in Cairo, Egypt, 18 January 2019 (issued 19 January 2019). The revenue of the concert was fully dedicated to Egyptian breast cancer patients. Elissa, who recently revealed she had recovered from breast cancer, was chosen to be the ambassador of the breast cancer awareness campaign.  EPA-EFE/MAHMOUD AHMED *** Local Caption *** 54912632
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Elissa has been in therapy, on and off, for 15 years.

The revelation was shared on the Lebanese pop star's podcast, which streams weekly on Anghami.

The second episode of Elissa – The Podcast, released on Wednesday, focused on mental health and saw the Asaad Wahda singer discuss her struggles in the limelight and the trauma caused by her 2018 breast cancer diagnosis.

Elissa reportedly overcame her condition in 2019. Therapy, she said, was crucial in dealing with both challenges.

“Not many people know that I have been visiting a psychiatrist's clinic for about 15 years,” she says.

“Sometimes I keep going and sometimes I stop, but this helped me a lot in a way. I now have the ability to be even more psychologically balanced enough to face any problem smoothly because I am taking care of my mental health.”

By discussing her own experiences with therapy, Elissa said she hoped to break the “taboo” surrounding seeking help, and encouraged listeners to incorporate sessions as part of their everyday lives.

“The subject of mental health is still considered a taboo, especially in our societies,” she said.

“There are those who believe that a [mentally ill] person should visit a psychiatrist, while psychiatry now takes a large place in the world and is considered as important as consulting a normal doctor."

It’s better out than in

Elissa recounted how she initially sought therapy due to a prior health condition and how the experience allowed her to dig deeper into other struggles.

"I started to tell her another problem, which was my struggle with my [ex-partner]," she said. "I remember leaving that clinic feeling very comforted and glad that I was able to let out what I kept locked inside.”

Elissa wrapped up the episode by urging listeners to be resilient during the pandemic and reach out to loved ones and professionals if needed.

“We live today in an exceptional and difficult situation due to the pandemic and social distancing, but this matter is temporary and we should not give up,” she said.

“Especially after the invention of the vaccine, the numbers will hopefully decrease in the future. Take advantage of home isolation by taking a walk around the house, reading, or exercising.

“I am not saying don’t cry in frustration, we are human beings, after all, but love yourselves and surround yourself with positive people and please refrain from doing something at the expense of your mental health.”

Elissa at her most personal

Elissa The Podcast is currently one of the most discussed podcasts in the Arabic entertainment industry.

Elissa is one of the rare Arabic superstars to command her own podcast series, which sees the star her most personal.

In the debut episode, which was released on February 10, Elissa recalled being affected by the criticism faced throughout her career, and in particular, as a result of the music video for 1999 single Baddy Doub.

“The audience was not prepared for such kind of bold videos at the time and here my courage helped me. I did not pay attention to the reaction of the audience and I went my way,” she said.

“I was criticised strongly over the course of my career and I was affected by it. But whenever I told my father what was going through my head, he always encouraged and comforted me.”

Elissa also credits her cancer battle for strengthening her resolve.

“When I learned I was a cancer patient, I imagined that life had stopped. Now I feel settled again and I faced my fear with good spirits which helped me recover,” she said.

“I came out of this experience without any negative impact on my life, because I believe in the saying: 'you do not know how strong you are until you face adversity.'

The next episode of Elissa The Podcast available to stream on Anghami from Wednesday.