SHARJAH , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , AUG 3 – 2017 :- Ansel Johnson ( 20 years old ) attended the counselling session after suffering serious depression , self-mutilation and drug abuse in the US before moving here at his home in Sharjah. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) Story by Nick Webster
Ansel Johnson, 20, attended the counselling sessions after suffering serious depression. Pawan Singh / The National

Mental health: ‘It evolved into a general apathy for life, a disdain and a lack of interest in living’

In another time, Ansel Johnson may never have received the help he desperately needed to overcome the deep depression that hung over him every day of his teenage life.

Now 20, he has turned his life around – and dragged himself up from his lowest point, when he self-medicated with prescription drugs and self-harmed, leaving him scarred for life.

In Sharjah, where he now lives, Mr Johnson is returning to education – as much of his years in high school in the US and UAE were plagued by mental health problems.

“I had bouts of paranoia and long periods of feeling inadequate since I was 13,” he said.

“I grew up with that feeling. I assumed it was teenage angst, so didn’t get any help.

“It got gradually worse, I was feeling low all the time, sinking deeper into this feeling of hating myself.

“It evolved into a general apathy for life, a disdain and a lack of interest in living.”

His problems began to manifest when he reached high school age and began interacting with girls. When he moved to the UAE to attend a private school, the problems worsened due to the lack of integration, he said.

“School was very segregated between boys and girls, so it didn’t encourage normal interaction,” he said.

“It led to a lot of aggression and testosterone, and I became even more lonely.”


Read more:


Mr Johnson went back to America after four years in the UAE to continue high school, where his apathy and anger only increased.

There, he began self-medicating with Xanax, a prescription drug used to treat anxiety disorders, panic disorders and anxiety caused by depression. Misuse of such habit-forming medicine can cause addiction, overdose, or death.

“I was taking three a day when I was in high school,” he added. “It got to the point where I couldn’t remember the last four months of my senior year.

“I was like a zombie, and would drift between classes and wake up in a haze later in the day with no recollection of what I had done or how I had got there.

“I had done badly in high school and community college, and thought I had no future. That’s when I started self-harming, just to feel something.

“I got very drunk one night and cut my face with a broken glass. The next day I realised I had to get out of that environment.”

In January last year, he returned to the UAE where his aunt was a counsellor who recommended sessions at the German Neuroscience Centre.

“I didn’t want to talk as it made me feel weak but, eventually, I figured out I had to speak to someone about what I was going through,” he said.

“I went to therapy and was diagnosed with ADHD and major depressive disorder.

The group didn’t judge me, but understood me. It helped me to get out of the rut I had been in for years.

“I was lucky my parents supported me, I know there are plenty of people who don’t see this as a real problem but it is more common than people think.”

Adele: The Stories Behind The Songs
Caroline Sullivan
Carlton Books

Profile of VoucherSkout

Date of launch: November 2016

Founder: David Tobias

Based: Jumeirah Lake Towers

Sector: Technology

Size: 18 employees

Stage: Embarking on a Series A round to raise $5 million in the first quarter of 2019 with a 20 per cent stake

Investors: Seed round was self-funded with “millions of dollars” 

Company profile

Name: Emonovo (previously Marj3)
Based: Cairo
Launch year: 2016
Number of employees: 12
Sector: education technology
Funding: three rounds, undisclosed amount


Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier

From September 18-25, Abu Dhabi . The two finalists advance to the main event in South Africa in February 2023

Group A: United States, Ireland, Scotland, Bangladesh
Group B: UAE, Thailand, Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea

UAE group fixtures:
Sept 18, 3pm, Zayed Cricket Stadium – UAE v Thailand
Sept 19, 3pm, Tolerance Oval - PNG v UAE
Sept 21, 7pm, Tolerance Oval – UAE v Zimbabwe

UAE squad: Chaya Mughal (captain), Esha Oza, Kavisha Kumari, Rinitha Rajith, Rithika Rajith, Khushi Sharma, Theertha Satish, Lavanya Keny, Priyanjali Jain, Suraksha Kotte, Natasha Cherriath, Indhuja Nandakumar, Vaishnave Mahesh, Siya Gokhale, Samaira Dharnidharka