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RIYADH: A recently launched digital platform aims to break the stigma surrounding mental health in the Arab world.

Presented in Arabic, Houna will provide information, resources and support groups to help fight taboos around the issue.

Sheikha Majda Al-Sabah, founder of Houna, told Arab News: “We lack mental health resources in Arabic. If you want to search anything in Arabic, you can’t find anything specific enough.

“Houna is a non-profit that cares about mental health and acts as an aggregator and takes everyone who needs mental health help and connects them with the people who provide it.”

Al-Sabah, a philanthropist and mental health advocate, started Houna to help people with depression, anxiety, abuse, eating disorders, addictions, or suicidal thoughts.

In addition to providing information, Houna can direct people to relevant support groups offering help through live counseling sessions, while raising awareness about mental health and wellbeing.

“We really believe that support groups are the best way to take care of mental health,” Al-Sabah said.

Sheikha Majda Al-Sabah, founder of Houna. (Photo by Abulaziz Alnoman)

The platform operates on the principles of inclusivity, respect, confidentiality, credibility and integrity, and provides written resources in Arabic and English for people of all ages, socio-economic backgrounds and nationalities in the Middle -East.

The data includes the latest information on mental health disorders, symptoms and treatments, as well as podcasts, articles, webinars and related online events.

Users can also connect directly with therapists and medical professionals from a list of 150 licensed specialists and Houna regularly hosts mental health support groups.

Al-Sabah came up with the idea for the platform in 2020 and officially launched it on October 10 in Kuwait to mark World Mental Health Day.

She and her team visited some of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, holding a ceremony at the Sidra Art Gallery in the Jax district of Riyadh to inaugurate the platform. in the Kingdom.

During the event, Al-Sabah gave voice to anyone who wanted to discuss their struggles with mental health, and medical professionals and attendees took the stage to share their experiences.

She said: “I suffered from depression for a very long time, and it hit me because I tried to ask for help, I tried to look for doctors and psychiatrists who could help me , but I couldn’t find any specific information.

“I am a talkative person. Every time I ask people and tell them I have a problem, they say don’t talk about it, you have to keep it quiet. I realized that was my calling.

“When we started in the first three years it was purely to destigmatize mental health, so that was our goal, that was our goal that we were passionate about, that we would do anything to break the stigma.

“We need to go beyond raising awareness, we need to help as much as we can,” she added.

Houna aims to make mental health information accessible to everyone.

Al-Sabah said, “It’s not tangible and people can’t understand, and the perception of people in the world, they perceive people by their behaviors and that’s what makes it a bit more difficult to their understand mental health.

“There is always a stigma, but we have been trying since we started three years ago. It was a lot tougher, now people are more aware due to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a crisis, but it helps us raise awareness,” she added.

In the future, Al-Sabah plans to establish a Houna wellness center.

She said: “We have these psychiatric hospitals and light wellness centers, but I want a place where when you’re feeling a little down you can spend the weekend there, recharge and go back to your normal life. .”

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Henry R. Wright