Mental health help in the UAE during the coronavirus crisis: five organisations to know about

Here are some of the UAE's most helpful mental health support networks

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As we all deal with the coronavirus crisis in our own way, some of us may feel we need extra emotional support during a tough time. Thankfully, there are a number of communities, support groups and online resources in the UAE that we can turn to.

We look at five ways to lighten your emotional load.

1. Leaves Dubai

Divorce can throw people into a state of total emotional and mental breakdown. Legal battles, debates about child custody, financial issues and casting blame can all result in a ­deeply traumatic experience.

Leaves Dubai, a group for women going through difficulties in their marriage or divorce, recognises this and usually offers regular meet-ups but also online support.

Founder Anne Jackson, a therapist and coach who specialises in helping people in difficult relationship situations, set up Leaves eight years ago to help women find others in the same situation who they could talk to.

"People naturally want to feel supported and upheld and loved in this time of uncertainty, but being thrown together with partners that are doing the opposite and fighting and not being able to escape it is heightening the feeling that the marriage is really over.

"Covid-19 and lockdown is literally holding up a mirror to the cracks that were already there."

With this in mind, Jackson is now offering one free hour of one-on-one therapy via Zoom during the coronavirus crisis. Her regular therapy sessions cost Dh750 per hour.

Get in touch via

2. Mental Health UAE

Last year, two UAE residents were united by the plight of a mutual friend suffering from mental health problems. Faced with a lack of information, the duo, Ali Khawaja and Latifa bin Haider, took action and founded a comprehensive online directory and support network for all things mental health in the country.

At the moment, the pair are very active on social media, offering self-care tips through their platforms, and sharing videos of people in their community talking about what they're doing to boost their mental health. They are also hosting an online wellness circle every Tuesday via Zoom from 7pm to 8pm. Most recently, they hosted guest speaker mental health counsellor Bisma Anwar in their weekly Zoom meet-up, as she discussed coping techniques that can help during the pandemic.

3. 12-step programmes

Alcoholics Anonymous offers life-changing – and often life-­saving – support for people struggling with addictions.

Whether it's struggles with alcohol, drugs, overeating, codependency or any other type of addictive behaviour, there is likely to be a branch that meets regularly near you.

At the moment, of course, these are being done online instead of in person. There are sessions on Sundays and Tuesdays at 7pm.

"The aim of the programme is to bring about lasting change in the addict, so that he or she can participate in life and cope with it, without falling back to their previous behaviour," says an AA representative in the UAE. "This is supported by a fellowship of like-minded and experienced people and becomes a way of life that most 12-steppers adopt with joy and happiness."

There are also 24-hour phone lines available for those in need, so help is still always at hand for those who seek it.

"Through meetings, literature, shared experiences and members helping each other, the 12-step programmes are proven consistently to work," the representative says. "Those who wish to stop drinking, or their addictive habit, can benefit from this programme."

4. Safe Space

Safe Space arrived on the scene in January 2019, promising to find ways to provide free community mental health support through events, partnerships and other strategies.

On its website, it says it wants to create a welcome home for people to share, learn and grow.

Originally, co-founders Dani Hakim, Helen Hope and Leanne Sherlock identified spaces in the community, such as a coffee shop or yoga studio, that they could make into a safe space by bringing professionals together with people who need support.

Their mission was to: "help people who may not have mental health support covered by health insurance, by giving them the chance to share their thoughts and stories with others and with experts, so they can heal through that process."

Now they're doing that online via a private Facebook group called Safe Space Social.

On the group, there are a number of live sessions on a variety of topics, from decluttering your own space to mental health versus social media, as well as breathwork classes, for example.

Join the group via

5. Lighthouse Arabia support groups

Lighthouse Arabia is a well-known and popular therapy and wellness centre in the UAE that has a large offering of online services, including webinars, support groups, traditional therapy and well-being checks.

The team is currently hosting a number of free weekly sessions that are being run online for anyone to tap into. This includes sessions on how to manage emotional health during times of Covid-19, coping with cancer and grief, dealing with university stress, support for parents-to-be, motherless daughters and even mental health first aid training – plus plenty more. Visit the website to find the full schedule.