Fatin al Zadjali finds there’s growing awareness about mental health issues in the Sultanate.
It’s Mental Health Week (October 9-15) around the world, and a group of experts in Oman is working hard to raise awareness and better understanding of psychological issues suffered by many in the Sultanate.
Our understanding of matters such as depression has evolved over the generations: the legendary British prime minister Winston Churchill suffered from what he infamously called “Black Dog”, and the World War II leader dealt with it by going into his garden to build brick walls. Many modern-day celebrities have also suffered from inner turmoil, such as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’, and US pop singer Britney Spears, and their troubles have been well-publicised.
However, depression is just one part of a whole spectrum of mental health issues. Understanding the factors that cause them and how to deal with them is the focus of an ongoing campaign in which the Sultanate’s first mental wellness clinic is heavily involved.
The Whispers of Serenity Clinic, in Azaiba, which was founded in 2013 by Janab Al Sayyida Basma Al Said, is aiming to increase awareness by holding recreational workshops, open discussions and events this month.
In conjunction with the clinic, Sayyida Basma has created an awareness initiative to spread this message called Not Alone Oman.
Her diligent team produced a video, called Not Alone, which explores the disorders that could affect our mental state at any time. It features contributions from public figures such as Sayyid Nasr Bin Badar Al Busaidi and Her Highness Dr Taghreed Bint Turki Al Said, a child psychology specialist. Its message is: “You are not alone in your suffering; we are with you.”
The idea for the campaign came after a struggle to help the residents of Oman understand and accept that people go through mental health difficulties, and that those who do should seek help. However, there is still a stigma surrounding the issue that many people in Arab countries find hard to overcome.
Mental health is defined as emotional, psychological and social wellness. Positive mental health enables us to function appropriately in our day-to-day lives and helps us to reach our desired potential.
But for some, the path is not always so easy and the subject is still more of a taboo subject here than it is in Europe, according to Dr Hana Al Geilani, a psychiatrist at the Whispers of Serenity clinic.
“There is an incorrect perception that when one has a mental disorder, one is weak and incapable,” she says.
“As a result, people avoid the affected person and their life deteriorates. This is not true by any means. Mental illness can affect anyone; causes are environmental and genetic and have nothing to do with one’s strength.
“However, there is a lack of awareness when it comes to mental health and that is why it is stigmatised.
“In Arab countries it is also associated with jinn and black magic, which makes it perhaps even more stigmatised.”
Whispers of Serenity aims to help people find out more about mental health and the methods of treatment available for sufferers.
These can include finding a counsellor who can refer an individual for a specific therapy to cure their illness or help with their symptoms. There are also a few methods and techniques that are suitable for different types of clients, says Dr Hana.
“Counselling helps bring out the causes affecting the individual’s mental health,” she says.
“The counsellor could then refer the individual for specific therapy to help cure their illness or help with their symptoms.
“Therapy depends on the cause of the client’s condition as well as the presentation. In some cases, individuals are sent to a psychiatrist if medication is needed.”
Everyone will have different characteristics and reactions to therapy, which could include the likes of hypnotherapy, focus therapy or life coaching, for instance. Nisreen Yaghi, a certified life coach and Reiki master, aims to guide clients in finding improvements in their lives and work.
“The mind generates more than 70,000 thoughts a day. However, most of these thoughts are not needed, and are wasteful or negative,” she says. “Life coaching, specifically NLP [Neurolinguistic programming] is a great tool, which embodies several techniques that can change the way people think, learn, and communicate.
“NLP explores the relationship between how we think, how we express our thoughts and our patterns of behaviour and emotion. By studying and learning from these relationships an NLP practitioner guides the client on how to train their mind and start the change from within.”
As for alternatives, other techniques include meditation, which is simply the process of being mindful; going within and watching our breath.
Reiki is a Japanese method for reducing stress and is a relaxation that promotes healing. A client of Nisreen’s has found that a combination of Reiki and NLP has improved her quality of life.
She says: “I am very interested in energy work, and perform exercises such as meditation. Having sessions has made a significant difference in my life. To me, my practitioner’s Reiki energy is potent and can be felt immediately. It puts me into a trance and I always come out of it feeling relaxed and tranquil.”
Whispers of Serenity is hosting a combined Omani Women’s Day and Mental Health Day event this Saturday (October 15). The clinic will also hold its fourth Serenity Women Retreat event, called Phoenix, at the Anantara Al Jabal Akhdar Resort.
As Janab Al Sayyida Basma bint Fakhri Al Said, the clinic’s founder says: “A person who is mentally healthy is able to form positive relationships, and deal with life’s challenges with harmony within.”
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If you think that you or any of your family would benefit from guidance or advice, please contact Whispers of Serenity Muscat in North Azaiba.
Telephone: 9935 9779