Omnia Seheya, launched by QF’s global health initiative WISH, aims to narrow the gap between psychologists and Arab societies
The topic of mental health is everywhere these days – on social media, in seminars delivered by psychologists, in workshops offered by life coaches, in lectures given by famous celebrities sharing their experiences. But why are we witnessing an increase in discussions around these issues, especially in the Arab world?
The World Health Organization defines health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social safety, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity". This indicates the importance of mental health as an integral part of our general health and wellbeing.
With the onset of rapid changes across various aspects of life imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, increased levels of anxiety, tension, and fear were seen, and, consequently, mental health received wider attention, and we began realizing the importance of caring for our mental well-being.
The World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), Qatar Foundation’s (QF’s) global health initiative, attracted more than 2,000 participants from 160 countries in its previous edition two years ago, and will take place virtually this year from November 15-19. It will discuss mental health, including mental health challenges facing children and teenagers in particular.
According to the report of the WISH Anxiety and Depression Forum 2018 titled 'Addressing anxiety and depression: a whole system approach’, statistics and estimations over the past three years show that more than 322 million people have depression, and 264 million people suffer from anxiety disorder, globally.
The report indicated that complex and debilitating impact of both anxiety and depression is worsened by stigma and discrimination, which can affect many aspects of people’s lives, such as asking for timely help.
The idea of this podcast came into fruition after the outcomes of the WISH 2018 report, which highlighted anxiety and depression issues at that time
In order to facilitate that help, WISH has launched Qatar’s first Arabic language health-focused podcast to coincide with World Mental Health Day as well as the launch of a report titled ‘Digital Mental Health Revolution: Transforming Care Through Innovation And Scale-Up’ at WISH 2020.
The series is called Omnia Seheya (meaning: A healthy wish), and each season of the podcast will comprise four to six episodes, with various international experts from Qatar, the region, and the world, who will share their knowledge and spread awareness on how listeners can maintain their mental health.
Speaking about the role of this podcast, Mahmoud El Achi, Head of Innovation at WISH, says: “The idea of this podcast came into fruition after the outcomes of the WISH 2018 report, which highlighted anxiety and depression issues at that time, in addition to the results of WISH’s previous reports that have always emphasized mental health.
“We were looking at ways to promote messages of mental health to the Arab audience without tapping into the misconceptions and the stigma surrounding this topic.
There are many misconceptions surrounding mental health, as the individual is often advised by those around him to seek help from non-specialists and settle for traditional folk practices, instead of seeking professional help
"The idea of the podcast came from the experiences of people around us, which vary from mental disorders, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, or other psychological challenges that appear due to the environment in our houses and among our family members. Individuals find it difficult and embarrassing to talk about these issues and express how they feel, which in turn causes more anxiety for those who need help.
“There are many misconceptions surrounding mental health, as the individual is often advised by those around him to seek help from non-specialists and settle for traditional folk practices, instead of seeking professional help.
“Through this podcast, we aim to narrow the gap between community members and mental health specialists, and to break the psychological barriers that hinder individuals from receiving the help that they need. We also hope to increase awareness of the social, psychological, and biological factors that determine status of our mental health, and to know when is the right time to seek help and accept the reality.”
The podcast aims to motivate all community members, including adolescence and youth, to take care of their mental health
During WISH 2020, which is being held under the banner of ‘One World Our Health’, Omnia Seheya will release three episodes, and three more episodes immediately after the summit. Topics include misconceptions about mental health, striking a balance between personal and professional lives, digital mental health, and anxiety disorder.
Given the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic on children, whether due to changes in the education system or having to wearing face masks or the separation between them and their family members and friends, there has been a pressing need to focus our attention more on children's mental health.
El Achi says: "The podcast aims to motivate all community members, including adolescence and youth, to take care of their mental health, not just for a temporary period, but as something to do on a continuous and permanent basis.
“For this reason, we stress the need to take care of the mental health of children at an early age, and to monitor for early signs. The role of the family and the surrounding environment, as well as other factors, can highly affect children's decisions that shape their personalities and ways of thinking in the future.”
Through the Omnia Seheya podcast series, the WISH aims to urge people in the Arab world, from all age groups and cultures, to talk about their psychological distress, and to be courageous enough to seek the help of psychologists when needed.