Interview: The Lighthouse Arabia’s Farah Dahabi On Why You Need To Take Note This Mental Health Awareness Month

BY Harper's BAZAAR Arabia / May 6 2019 / 14:24 PM

Because it could be hitting closer to home than you think…

Interview: The Lighthouse Arabia’s Farah Dahabi On Why You Need To Take Note This Mental Health Awareness Month
The Lighthouse Arabia

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so to bring awareness to the community, we say down with Farah Dahabi, Clinical Social Worker & Mental Health First Aid UAE Lead at The LightHouse Arabia to chat about the common mental health conditions affecting the people around you, and what we can do to help…

Harper’s Bazaar Arabia: What message do you hope to spread this Mental Health Awareness Month?
Farah Dahabi: That mental health is not a dirty word.  Without mental health, there can be no true physical health:  People understand that ‘physical health’ refers to the overall wellness of our body - maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep. Yet people have no concept of what having good mental health means.  People typically feel fear, imagine severe psychiatric illnesses, or assume it’s not prevalent, yet one in every four individuals experiences a mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety and depression. So no, mental health is not a dirty word - everyone has mental health, it is the health of one’s mind, thoughts, emotions, and brain.

HBA: How can we encourage friends and family to talk about mental wellbeing?
FD: By expressing genuine care and concern about how they’ve been feeling: “I’ve been thinking about how you’re doing.” By expressing empathy: “That sounds difficult,” or “I cannot imagine what this must be like for you.” Remember, empathy never begins with “At least...”. By respecting their wishes if they do not want to speak about it: “That’s okay, but if you’d like to talk at another time please know that I’m here for you.”. And finally by taking a Mental Health First-Aid Course: This evidence-based training will teach you the skills to respond to anyone who may be struggling with their mental health, and The LightHouse Arabia is the only accredited provider of Mental Health First Aid in the UAE.

HBA: What signs should we be looking out for that could indicate our loved ones are suffering from mental health issues?
FD: Look for changes in the way a person typically thinks, feels, and behaves, is it negatively impacting their life? They may withdraw from friends and family, struggle to function or concentrate, not enjoy things that once brought pleasure, or feel excessively worried or empty. 

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HBA: What advice do you have for those of us going through tough times?
FD: When we’re in a dark place, it can feel like all hope is lost and we’re all alone.  For those who are currently struggling, I want them to know that they are not alone, and help is available.  Do not go at it alone.  Talk to your friends, family, and a healthcare professional. I love President Barack Obama’s recent quote, “If something inside you feels like it’s wounded, it’s just like a physical injury. You’ve got to go get help. There’s nothing weak about that. It’s strong.”

HBA: Do you believe that by sharing their stories; celebrities are helping to reduce stigma around mental health?
FD: When celebrities like Elon Musk, Dwayne Johnson, Prince Harry, or Lady Gaga share their personal struggle with depression and anxiety, it chips away at the thick stigma surrounding mental health.  It humanizes the issue and challenges stereotypes that people who are depressed are lazy, unsuccessful, or unkept. I’ve actually had clients confess the only reason they explored therapy was because Prince Harry talked about having counselling after Princess Diana’s death. 

HBA: Are there any apps you would recommend?
FD: Headspace or Calm are great apps to build a mindfulness practice.

HBA: What would be your tips for keeping a calm mind and emotional hygiene in a fast moving city like Dubai?
FD: Make yourself a priority! Set boundaries for what’s okay and what’s not okay in relationships, allocate time to slow down and reconnect with yourself and others. Self-care is not a luxury, it is a pillar of good emotional hygiene. Learn how to recognize personal signs that your energy levels are running low.