Mental health of young is focus of campaign

The six-month Mental Health Awareness Campaign, spearheaded by Dubai's Community Development Authority, begins on Saturday.

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DUBAI // Young people will be the target of an initiative to raise awareness and prevention of mental health problems.

The six-month Mental Health Awareness Campaign, spearheaded by Dubai's Community Development Authority (CDA) and the Dubai Health Authority, will begin on Saturday before World Mental Health Day on Sunday.

According to Dr Hussein al Masseih, a social expert at the CDA, the need to protect mental health is something too often overlooked.

"We are trying to teach certain skills, such as how to deal with other people, how to manage anger and negotiate conflict resolution," he said at the campaign's launch yesterday. "This is especially important for youngsters to learn."

According to Dr al Masseih, everything from how people deal with family and work issues, as well as other challenges, affects the way they feel.

"Mental health is not only the absence of mental disease, but a state of mind to deal with life's challenges," he said.

"The goal is to make the public aware of how you can live your life to have a positive impact on mental health."

Lectures and workshops on mental health issues will be held in schools and universities, as well as in local majalis, or community meeting halls. Public service announcements will also be aired during the six-month campaign.

People should be aware of potential warning signs, as well as the importance of protecting their mental health, organisers said.

While the initiative is being introduced from Dubai, its scope is not confined to the emirate, said Khalid al Kamda, the director general of the CDA, which the Dubai Government launched in 2007.

"The campaign emanates from Dubai, but that doesn't mean it is only covering Dubai," Mr al Kamda said. The organisers welcomed the idea of other organisations getting involved, he added.

"Our aim is to promote mental health awareness, covering the whole community in Dubai and the UAE."

Dr Layla Asamarai, head of the psychology section at Rashid Hospital in Dubai, said the campaign aims to educate people to develop "healthy coping mechanisms" and to let the public know there are services available for help. "The greatest number of cases we come across relate to depression and anxiety," said Dr Asamarai, who added that those seeking assistance can contact Rashid Hospital's psychology section.

Samineh Shaheem, an assistant professor of cross-cultural psychology at Wollongong University in Dubai, welcomed the campaign as a "wonderful idea".

Some people find seeking help for mental health problems daunting, she said, something that may be overcome with more public discussion on the issues.

"It is necessary to raise awareness and dispel many misconceptions," Ms Shaheem said.