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Saudi campaign highlights ‘shadow pandemic’ of mental health

Saudi campaign highlights ‘shadow pandemic’ of mental health

 A major campaign to highlight the “shadow pandemic” of mental health has been launched in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Sustainable Development Association (Talga) in partnership with the Ministry of Health’s National Center for Mental Health Promotion (NCMH) are behind the ambitious new initiative titled, “Your Mental Health Comes First.”

The nationwide scheme will work to raise awareness about issues such as anxiety, depression, and work burnout and ways to prevent and treat the conditions. By 2030 officials hope to have trained at least one-third of the people living in the Kingdom as mental health first aid practitioners.
Talga and the NCMH this week hosted the first of their collaborative mental health first aid practitioner training courses, which was attended by around 50 people from throughout the Kingdom.

The internationally accredited Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training programs have been Arabized and adapted culturally by Saudi experts.


Abeer bint Saud bin Farhan Al-Saud, Talga’s chair, told Arab News: “Mental health is a shadow pandemic and is as important as physical health. Through this nationwide campaign we are shedding light on breaking the stigma of mental health and raising awareness about ways of treatment.


“In addition to the campaign, we have a strong ambition at Talga, in partnership with the NCMH, to train at least one-third of Saudi residents and citizens by 2030 as certified mental health first aid practitioners and trainers.”

She said that training people to become more literal in mental health would help to meet some of the socioeconomic targets of Vision 2030 reform plan and the associated goals of the country’s Quality of Life Program.

Haifa Aleshaiwi, MHFA program manager at the NCMH, said that in recent years 107 training programs in 17 locations throughout the Kingdom had trained more than 3,300 Saudis as certified mental health first aid practitioners.

“The program was implemented previously across both public and private sectors and recently gained the attention and appreciation of Talga, a nonprofit organization from the third sector,” she added.

Nada Ibrahim, partnerships and communications adviser at Talga, said: “If there is universal cause that could unite the media then this is a great opportunity to support, encourage, and highlight this kind of program that has a tangible impact and meaningful values in society from all media outlets and key media leaders.”

A male college student with schizophrenia who participated in the training said that he had always been ashamed to mention his condition due to the stigma surrounding mental health, adding that people needed to receive more physical training in the topic of mental health.