Connect with us


Why Saudi Arabia’s mental health landscape needs more attention: ‘We are way behind in awareness’



Mohamed Al Jubran has had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder since childhood, but was not diagnosed until 2014 when he was 26 years old. The photographer from Saudi Arabia did nothing at the time to treat his mental condition, simply because he didn’t think it would work.

“I had a five-year gap between being diagnosed and seeking treatment simply out of ignorance … and I was scared of the stigma,” he tells The National.

When he finally sought help in 2019, it changed his life. “That’s why I now recommend therapy to everyone.”

Mental health in Saudi Arabia

Al Jubran’s experience is indicative of the mental health landscape in Saudi Arabia. According to a 2018 survey by the National Center for Public Opinion Polls, about 77 percent of Saudis said they or someone in their family had a mental illness at some point in their life.

However, according to the 2019 Saudi National Mental Health Survey, 80 percent of Saudis with severe mental disorders do not seek treatment.

“We are lagging far behind when it comes to mental health awareness,” says Hala Dahaln, who has been a family and child psychologist in this field for 20 years.

Although she has seen progress in people receiving help, it is not enough, she says. “People who come to my clinic today are more open to the idea of ​​treatment, but the stigma is still there.”

Hala Dahaln, family and child psychologist from Saudi Arabia. Courtesy Hala Dahaln

She says the overarching perceptions of people with illness in the kingdom and everyday language around mental health are major components of the problem. “People refer to someone who has a bad attitude or a bad day as someone who is mentally ill and this actually leads to stereotyping that this is a negative thing.

“But anyone can have a mental crisis. It is normal.”

Dahaln believes one way to combat this is to raise public awareness. “We need more campaigns in shopping malls and on social media for these diseases. Just as we see awareness campaigns about breast cancer or diabetes, we need to do the same for depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. ”

Document trips made by people

It’s not just about people refusing to get treatment, it’s also about a lack of knowledge and understanding because they simply don’t realize they have a mental illness.

The Saudi doctor Osama bin Nuyijfan tries to address this problem with his Arabic-language podcast Wijdan (meaning “the heart”), which tells stories of people who have had mental illness and documents their path to overcoming it.

I feel like the podcast created something of a #MeToo movement for mental health

Osama bin Nuyijfan, doctor and podcaster

“When you hear the experiences and suffering of others, you feel less alone,” he says.

His show was also incredibly popular, having had more than three million listeners in 95 episodes since it launched in 2018. According to Nuyijfan statistics, it is heard about 250,000 times a month, 80 percent of them in Saudi Arabia.

“I feel like the podcast created something of a #MeToo mental health movement as a lot of people started sharing the podcast and then sharing their own stories,” says Nuyijfan.

“My inbox is always full of people who want to share their stories right now.”

Many listeners have also chosen to seek help after listening to the program, he says. “I really hope we keep moving towards a place where more people feel safe to speak.”

A question of access

For Basim Albeladi, founder of Labayh, a leading telemedicine app that offers psychological counseling in Arabic, it’s not just about awareness, it’s also about a lack of skill among medical professionals.

“There is a lack of adequate training for therapists in Saudi Arabia,” he says.

However, Labayh has managed to recruit 150 psychologists and psychiatrists based in Saudi Arabia to care for their 180,000 active users.

The 200,000 downloads of the app in 18 months, according to the figures shared by Albeladi, show that there is great demand for this type of help.

Therefore, Albeladi does not believe that it is about the treatment, but “the problem lies with the medium itself”. It’s about access, he says.

Basim Albeladi, founder of Labayh, a telemedicine app that offers mental health counseling in Arabic. Courtesy of Basim Albeladi

He experienced that firsthand. When he returned to the Kingdom in 2016 from the United States, where he had studied, after a motorcycle accident that spent more than a month in intensive care, he had no job and no degree. “I was devastated and had post-traumatic stress disorder. I returned to my hometown of Medinah, but there wasn’t even a single clinic that could help. “

Eventually Albeladi sought help from an American doctor online. “That’s when I realized that we need such a solution in Saudi Arabia. We have to digitize the process.”

He also believes the Kingdom’s mental health industry needs to be renamed “as something safe … to win people’s trust”.

“Influencers and public figures in particular should help by talking about their problems and how they overcame them. Unfortunately, people still can’t speak out loud and publicly about it, and that has to change.”

“We are missing a whole system”

Even if healthcare professionals were trained, awareness campaigns started, and more people sought help, it wouldn’t be enough, says podcaster Nuyijfan.

“The problem is that we lack an entire mental health system. The puzzle is not complete.

“You have people talking, you have clinics and therapists, you have medication, but what about the before?

“What I mean are the self-help groups, the services that take you to the clinic, the self-help books in Arabic, more podcasts – all of that is missing in Saudi Arabia.”

Dahaln agrees. “We teach in ours [public] Science and math, but we don’t teach psychology, and it’s as important as any other subject.

“Understanding how the mind works is important, which can have a huge impact on someone with a mental disorder and help people understand these diseases as they arise.”

Al Jubran hopes his art will at least open some people’s eyes to the subject. Since seeking treatment for his ADHD, the photographer has launched two new projects to start conversations about mental health.

His first was a series in which he interviewed people about their mental health while doing their portraits. “I want to normalize these conditions, but also give them a face, make them human.”

Now he is concentrating on a second project in which he takes four photos of the same person in different emotional states with layered analog exposure. “In these pictures you can see how someone with PTSD can laugh and be sad at the same time. What’s on the surface isn’t what’s inside, and there’s no consistent picture of what a mental disorder looks like. “


Colorado receives $94 million federal funding boost for behavioral health services – State of Reform



The Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) will receive more than $ 94 million in additional federal block grants over the next four years to increase drug use and mental health services as the state relies on that higher demand responded to that caused by the Covid19 pandemic.

OBH has worked with stakeholders including the state health planning and advisory board and a diverse group of providers to set priorities for the stimulus funds. Out of dozens of projects, OBH will use the first round of stimulus dollars totaling more than $ 43 million to fund equity, diversity and inclusion efforts; Peer support and recovery services; and treating people with severe mental illness (SMI) and substance use disorders.

“As we struggle with heightened behavioral health needs in Colorado, this funding will help us meet the requirements caused by COVID and even expand services across the state,” said Robert Werthwein, director of OBH. “We are grateful to our federal partners for recognizing the importance of the problem and giving us the tools to deal with the crisis.”

As part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA), the federal government has Drug Abuse Management and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) has awarded the OBH an additional $ 27.1 million for the state’s Block Grant Program for the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse (SABG) and an additional $ 16.2 million for the Community Mental Health Services (MHBG) block grant program, which must be issued by March 14, 2023. The block grants are administered by the OBH and are non-competitive federal awards that fund behavioral health services in all 50 states.

In addition to that boost, OBH will receive an additional $ 23.4 million and $ 28.1 million, respectively, for the SABG and MHBG programs through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) stimulus package. OBH has these dollars to spend by September 30, 2025 and is working on a spending plan to support programs that have seen increased demand during the pandemic. Many of the priorities from the CRRSA funds are expanded through the ARPA funds. The state’s plan for the ARPA fund is due on July 2nd.

The preliminary spending plan for the $ 43 million CRRSA fund includes the following allocations for the next two years. The funding amounts could change depending on the bills passed in the 2022 legislative period or on emerging priorities.

Mental health and substance use funding plan for CRRSA funds

  • $ 5.28 million for peer-based recovery support services associated with SUD treatment providers, including those who have involuntarily committed to SUD treatment. Financing is provided by the state’s managed service organizations
  • $ 5 million for residential drug use treatment, withdrawal management (detox), and involuntary commitment services
  • $ 4.9 million to support the workforce, including training peer specialists and efforts to attract more blacks, indigenous and blacks (BIPOC) to behavioral health
  • $ 4.84 million for programs to support the mental health of children, adolescents and young adults
  • $ 3 million for assertive community or community-based treatment for adults with SMI
  • $ 2.8 million for Individual placement and support, a program to help people with mental illness and / or addictions find and keep a job
  • $ 2.6 million for programs that connect mothers, pregnant women and parents with behavioral health and recovery services
  • $ 2.35 million for the behavioral health crisis system, including safe transportation and marketing for diverse populations
  • $ 1.875 million for the state Forward together Prevention campaign
  • $ 1.875 million to expand school substance abuse screening
  • $ 1.68 million for drug abuse prevention programs among adolescents, particularly in BIPOC and LGBTQ communities
  • $ 1.5 million in peer-based mental health and drug use services across the state, including tribal and Latinx communities
  • $ 1.05 million for vacation homes and Housing assistance for people with SMI who are not housed
  • $ 700,000 in SUD services to tribal people across the state
  • $ 600,000 for a public awareness campaign on behavioral health related to the effects of the pandemic
  • $ 600,000 for a position as Director of Justice and Community Engagement, OBH form translation and branding materials, and public relations grants for organizations working with EDI populations
  • $ 450,000 for OBH’s bed capacity register

Approximately $ 2.3 million of the CRRSA grant will meet OBH’s administrative costs.

This news release was provided by the Colorado Department of Human Services.

Continue Reading


Get Ready for NORD’s Patient and Family Forum, Set for June 26-27



Those who wish to acquire practical tools for living optimally with rare diseases are encouraged to attend the annual Living Rare Living Stronger Patient and Family Forum, hosted by the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), and this year 26-26 June 27th takes place.

The conference brings together patients, families, healthcare professionals and other supporters to learn, share and connect.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, general sessions, breakout workshops and networking will again be virtual. The sessions, which provide perspectives from patients, caregivers and the medical community, are broadcast live and recorded for later viewing. Throughout the forum, participants can visit the exhibition hall and meet with other participants.

Also this year the Rare Impact Awards return as part of the program. This June 28 presentation honors individuals, organizations and industry innovators for their exceptional work benefiting the rare disease community.

“The health and well-being of people with rare diseases, their relatives and those who work to improve their lives continue to have top priority for all of us here at NORD,” said the forum message.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has given us new ways to connect with our community, and our 2020 virtual program has been the most successful forum to date! In 2021 we will continue to work hard to keep our community healthy and safe while we participate in this effective program, ”said NORD.

Registration for the “patient-centered” event costs US $ 39 for patients, nurses, students and representatives of the NORD patient organization. The cost is $ 75 for professional lawyers, scientists, doctors, and government officials and $ 500 for members of the NORD corporate council. For pharmaceutical, insurance, or other agents, registration is $ 650.

On the agenda is the opening discussion on the subject of “Patient-Professional Partnership” and includes three stories about the close bond between patients and their caregivers.

Breakout sessions for Saturday, June 26th, include “Coping with Graef and Anticipatory Grief”, “Shared Decision-Making with Your Care Team” and “Working While Rare”, followed by “Involving in Clinical Research: Finding” and Preparing for Clinical Trials, ”“ Navigating Insurance, Social Security Disability, and Patient Aid Programs, ”and“ The ABCs of Advocating Your Child’s Education ”in the second group of workshops.

This is followed by a plenary discussion on the subject of “Building resilience in a time of the unknown”. Speakers will examine how patients have coped while waiting for a diagnosis, how they fare while waiting for new treatments, and how they kept it together during the pandemic.

June 27th begins with an opening discussion in the plenum entitled “The Rare Sibling Experience”. Here, three siblings of rare disease patients will share their experiences, including how they became advocates.

Breakout sessions that day include “Fight Back and Fight Forward by Advocacy”, “Palliative Care: Unmasking the Myths”, “Rarely in the Family: Navigating the Roles of Patient, Parent, and Caregiver” in the early discussion groups. Later offerings this Sunday will include “Aging with a Rare Disease”, “Finding Your Community and Building Your Support Network” and “The Intersection of Race, Ethnicity and Equality with Access to Diagnosis and Treatment”.

The concluding plenary discussion, entitled “Rare Breakthroughs Now and on the Horizon”, will look at the latest advances in the diagnosis, treatment and care of rare diseases.

At the beginning of the year, NORD called on people to report on their practical experiences with rare diseases at the conference. A total of around 55 speakers will attend the conference, including doctors, nurses and other health professionals. Access to the virtual program will be provided by email during the week of the event.

Continue Reading


Never ignore these 6 signs in your pets



From Dr. Cynthia Maro

There are times when your pets are begging for extra treats, attention, or play time and it’s safe to ignore, but some signs that can start out as simple nuisances can be leading indicators of very serious health problems.

Knowing which signs require your attention and action can be life saving for your companion. The sooner you alert your veterinarian to these symptoms, the more likely they are to make a diagnosis and get your furry friend on the road to restoring health.

Below are some key indicators of illness.

1. Panting, Increased Breathing Rate, Open-Mouth Breathing: Panting can be a sign of pain, heat stroke, fever, or respiratory or cardiovascular problems.

A pet’s respiratory rate will increase as the need for oxygen increases, which can occur with all of the aforementioned diseases.

Cats always prefer to breathe through their nose. So if you breathe with your mouth open it is a sure sign of stress that can be the result of extreme stress, asthma, upper airway obstruction, heart or lung disease, or even cancer.

Increased respiratory rates also occur in infections that cause very high fevers or hyperthermia from heat stroke.

Wheezing that persists after a game of play and adequate rest should be taken seriously.

Conditions such as congestive heart failure, anemia, pneumonia, or pleural effusion (a condition where fluid fills the chest cavity and compresses the lungs) all need to be diagnosed through blood tests and x-rays.

All of these disorders can be life-threatening, and in cases such as heat stroke, immediate treatment through an emergency room visit is needed.

2. Salivation: This may be a sign of gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, a foreign body in the mouth or throat, an oral tumor or infection, a sialocele (disorder of the salivary glands), a lymphoma or a tooth root abscess.

Diagnosis may include sedated oral inspection and x-rays.

3. Increased thirst: Thirst will increase slightly in hot weather or with an increase in salty snacks (think jerky, bully sticks, and rawhide). Prolonged increases in water consumption must be considered as it may be due to diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, kidney disease or kidney failure, VBD (vector-borne disease, such as Lyme disease), an endocrine or hormonal imbalance such as Cushing’s disease or thyroid disease.

Diagnosis requires urinalysis, blood chemistry tests, and in some cases, more expensive hormone tests and ultrasounds.

4. Odor Change: Although pets can sometimes have an odor when it rains, a persistent or foul odor is often the first sign of illness.

“A smelly pet” can indicate something as small as a superficial skin or ear infection, or something much more serious, including an infected anal gland or a deep ear infection. These diseases can be treated very effectively by your veterinarian.

Some other worrying issues include odors from oral infections or tumors, deep skin infections, hormonal imbalances, diabetes, internal or external yeast or bacterial infections, anal gland narrowing, ulcerated skin tumors, or sinus infections.

5. Appetite Change: Lack of or increased appetite in pets should never be ignored.

Often times a pet has an increased appetite when they develop diabetes, but this sign can also be associated with certain types of cancer or tumors such as insulinoma, hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s disease, or adrenal cancer.

Pets often have a decreased appetite when battling infections, in pain, or having gastrointestinal disorders. The list of diseases that affect appetite is quite long.

6. Vomiting and diarrhea: Bowel discomfort or intermittent gastrointestinal symptoms (such as spitting once a week or even once a month) are signs that some part of the digestive process is not working properly.

Diagnoses such as intestinal parasites, food sensitivity, liver, gallbladder, and pancreatic diseases can all be treated with medication, but require a visit to the vet for appropriate treatment.

Your pet’s vet will know what tests to order to get insight into the cause of any of the signs mentioned.

If your fears of a negative or poor diagnosis are preventing you from taking action, please discuss this with your veterinarian. It’s always best to investigate early.

If you are concerned about high costs, your vet will want to know both your time and financial budget to care for your companion.

Not only can your quick attention to the warning signs of illness help your pet get better, but they can also reassure you, knowing that your companion will be comfortable, pain-free, and well-cared for.

Dr. Cynthia Maro is a veterinarian at Ellwood Animal Hospital in Ellwood City and Chippewa Animal Hospital in Chippewa Township. She writes a bi-weekly column on animal care and health issues. If you have a topic you’d like to address, email

Continue Reading