Sheikha Majda Al Sabah, inspired by her mental health journey, has launched a new mental health platform that will support destigmatizing mental health in the Gulf region.
Mental Health figures in the Gulf region
Houna is a new mental health initiative particularly focused on the Gulf region, which itself incorporates the various countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a regional, intergovernmental, political, and economic union comprising six countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
PWC carried out a report on the Impact of Untreated Mental Illness in the GCC. An average of 15% of the population is affected by mental health issues costing the GCC $3.5 billion in lost productivity each year. These results were slightly higher than the average global figure reported in My Mind News. The following table breaks the situation down by country –
The stigma attached to mental health is especially significant for GCC member states, which results in most people not seeking professional medical help. This stigma has been widely reported and is a known concern for this region.
In 2019, 80% of people in Saudi Arabia with severe mental health disorders did not seek any treatment. At the same time, 30% of participants interviewed in the UAE reported being reluctant to use mental health benefits due to fear of judgment and harming their careers.
The stigma associated with mental health in this region is profound. The lack of investment in mental health and shortages of qualified mental health professional further compounds this. Unlike the situation and awareness in other countries outside of the GCC, a seismic shift is required in terms of culture, government, and infrastructure to support the increasing needs of a growing population suffering from mental health issues.
How can Houna help?
Houna is an online platform accessible to all in the Middle East and provides resources, information, and support for those affected by mental health. Of its mission, Houna states-
“is to be the oasis of knowledge, support, guidance, and engagement for people dealing with challenges and mental health issues. Houna is anchored around the values of inclusiveness, respect, confidentiality, credibility, ethical compliance, integrity, and treating people equally.
The Houna website is user-friendly and contains comprehensive resources, including a mental health directory that provides an overview of the various mental health conditions, a list of mental health professionals, details of wellness centers, and recent regional and international articles. Podcasts and webinars are also included in the offering, as well as access and guidance to support groups.
While the website is a not-for-profit venture, membership is also available for $240 per year. Members’ benefits include access to professionally led support and peer groups and a range of discounts with wellness partners and events.
Massive development for the Gulf Region
This platform is exciting progress for this region, where there is much to be done regarding mental health. Yet, Houna’s sense of community and strapline of “You are not alone” is a strong calling to all those in the Middle East to get the help and support they need and deserve. The launch of Houna is a significant step toward breaking the barriers around mental health stigma in the Gulf region and may be the start of the awareness shift that is very much required.
My Mind News will keep you up-to-date on Houna’s news and successes that follow, but we would be interested in hearing about your Middle East stories and experiences. What other organizations are supporting mental health in this region? Can you share these with our readers?