Contributed by UM, MENA region
Mental illness knows no borders. And in the UAE, it’s no different. In fact, two of the top three causes of ill-health are anxiety and depression. And nearly 4 percent of the population is estimated to be clinically depressed, while mild depression affects up to 15 percent.
The fact that there’s not enough information about mental health statistics points to a pertinent issue that sufferers are unlikely to be forthcoming with regards to asking for treatment or even disclosing their struggles to friends, family or employers.
Now, workplace-related mental health is a primary issue affecting people. Long working hours. Financial pressures. Lack of work-life balance. Lack of physical activity. Social pressures. 60 percent of UAE employees who identified as stressed, described their offices and employment as the main cause. The unique structure of the workforce in the UAE with over 80 percent expats, living away from home, is also a factor.
Having these types of conversations openly is incredibly difficult. With life being tough, leaving those who are struggling with stress, depression, and anxiety to feel confused, overwhelmed and alone. The feelings and the emotions that they’d want to express to those around them including their employers, often remain ‘unspoken’. Truth is, sharing one’s feelings, as tough as it can be, does help.
The Lighthouse Centre for Well-Being is a leading community mental health and wellness clinic in the UAE, providing quality psychological care to children, adults, couples, and families. And the clinic wanted to help play a meaningful role when it came to the topic of mental health in the UAE.
Owing to the stigma and perception around mental health, through concept testing, McCann Health Dubai discovered that mental health communications, prevalent in Western markets, were not going to be appropriate or effective in the UAE, especially in the workplaces, were not sharing one’s feelings or emotions helps people look strong and in control.
A completely different way to achieve the goals of creating awareness for mental health was needed.
So, a selection of unspoken and untold feelings was collected from those under the care of Lighthouse who were dealing with mental health issues but hadn’t spoken to anyone about their issues earlier.
With over 20 artists, from all over the region, unique visual illustrations were created, depicting those unspoken feelings of those struggling with mental health issues. Those illustrations were then compiled, along with the relevant quotations, and a book, titled ‘unspoken, uae’, was published and distributed to workplaces, speaking to employees across companies in their own words.
By simplifying the message and connecting it to impactful visuals, Lighthouse has created a piece of communication that has enabled people in workplaces to identify with the thoughts and feelings in the book in an environment that was private and self-introspective. All the quotes that people read in the book are the real words of people who have been fighting life’s everyday challenges. And by having an open and honest dialogue with those who have wanted to listen and support, things have gotten better.
This book has been circulated and is being circulated across workplaces and companies in the UAE.
It has a contact page at the end that encourages those resonating with the feelings and emotions in the book, to remember that they are not alone, and prompts them to reach out and contact Lighthouse should they feel the need to talk.