Zayed University aims to stop the stigma of mental illness

05 May 2015

With one in four people struggling with mental health problems at least once in their lifetime according to statistics released by the World Health Organization (WHO), Zayed University (ZU) held an event in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai campuses under the slogan of “Stop the Stigma of Mental Illness,” to raise mental health awareness.  

The event was inaugurated by Prof. Reyadh AlMehaideb, Vice President of Zayed University, and organized by the Student Counseling Services at the Students Affairs Department to enlighten students about mental health and the devastating effects of its stigma and stereotypes.

The Student Counseling Center aims to promote and ensure Zayed University students’ psychological and health wellbeing. It provides a wide range of services including individual and group counseling, consultation, outreach programs, psycho-educational workshops, crisis intervention, and referrals to off-campus resources.

A team of dedicated and committed counselors provide professional services in a confidential, trusting, safe and supportive environment towards helping students overcome the psychological distress that interferes with their academic goals.

Several posters on mental health disorders were displayed at the female promenade in Abu Dhabi campus.

Professor Reyadh has exchanged dialogues with students, who majors in psychology and human services at ZU. They explained that each source of stigma represents a major barrier and can be profoundly damaging and difficult to overcome. It can shatter hopes of recovery and social inclusion leaving the person feeling devastated and isolated.

Students have also highlighted that like heart disease or diabetes, researches and studies showed that mental illness is often a medical condition that calls for proper treatment, care, support and education.

The event also featured “A Beautiful Mind” movie that is based on the life of John Nash, a Nobel laureate in economics, who developed paranoid schizophrenia and recovered gradually with the passage of time.

Dr. Fatima Al Darmaki, Assistant Provost for Students Affairs, said: “The event came to raise mental health awareness, to accept people living with mental illness, eliminate feelings of shame, prejudice and hopelessness, and to encourage Zayed University students to benefit from effective and comprehensive psychological and counseling services for their problems which might affect their academic performance negatively. Services can support students overcome their personal, academic, social and career-related concerns.”

Dr. Layla A. Asamarai, Licensed Clinical Psychologist at Dubai Community Health Center, has also delivered a presentation on the stigma of mental health and held roundtable discussions with Zayed University students.

“Stigma is the result of a society individually and collectively deciding to label and reject a problem that it does not know how to deal with. Mental health problems respond very well to treatment and if left untreated, mental health problems only get worse and hurt others,” she added.

Dr. Layla also addressed many risks of stigma such as, social isolation, social withdrawal, resort to food, relationships, electronic, and substances addiction.

She highlighted the importance of eliminating the barriers to achieve full inclusion in society and increase access to mental health resources to support individuals and families.

“All of us can make a difference by making a commitment to end stigma and discrimination,” Dr. Layla emphasized.

Aysha Al Malki, a Zaye University student who majors in psychology and human services, said: “Holding regular events that raise awareness on mental health problems and educate students on the urgent need to change negative attitudes and perceptions about mental illness and prove that people living with mental illness are everyday people leading meaningful lives is of utmost importance.”