We spoke with Mohammed Al Bin Ali, Weyak executive manager, to learn more about the initiative and the association that is sweeping the mental health stage.
- What is the motivation behind “Weyak” in Qatar?
- What are the most important services and programs on offer to the Qatari community?
- What is the association’s philosophy on mental health?
- From your point of view, how important are these mental health services to the community?
- What are the most common and important mental health issues faced by the Qatari community and how do you tackle them?
- What are some of the challenges you face at Weyak, and how do you overcome them?
- Do you think that the Arab and Gulf societies have started to understand the realities of mental health issues and are seeking to prevent and treat them?
- Weyak organized and launched a campaign on World Mental Health Day, can you tell us more about that?
- Do you think that the community accepts your services and quality of work, and finds them useful?
- Are there any specialized persons in mental health volunteering to work with you?
- You have an online consultancy, how does that work? And why did you decide to go online? Are people using it?
- How do you respond to these consultation requests?
- Finally, from a humanitarian perspective, how has this experience benefited the community?
There are many motivations behind this initiative. The main one is introducing the importance of mental health for everyone, and preventing the spread of mental illnesses. We aim to change the stigma attached to mental disorders and the way the community views mental health. This happens through awareness programs and activities for the community on social, educational, spiritual, and religious aspects. We cooperate with community organizations and businesses and provide support for those who receive mental health services.
Weyak provides many community services like mental health and behavioral programs, as well as family programs. These serve all members of the community and qualify competent professionals to provide psychological guidance. We organize events and awareness campaigns focused around mental health education and our goal is to provide psychological counseling services of the highest quality. We also focus on raising awareness on social issues and respecting the rights of those receiving treatment or counseling.
Our philosophy extends from our name and logo “Weyak” which means “with you” in Arabic. We are mental health friends association and we are friends to those who receive treatments and counseling, and their families. It is our duty to hold their hands and defend their rights. We are also friends of qualified professionals. These professionals come in two categories: those who can provide their expertise in a group setting through training and lectures; and those who get trained and qualified to benefit from expertise. Our logo “Weyak” tells more about how we are with everyone, to serve our country, adapt to change and get to a level of societal acceptance.
We consider mental health to be the base of everything in life. There is no work that can be innovative, creative, and productive without motivation and excitement towards it. Therefore, we see balanced mental health as the basis of adaptation in the community and enhancing the ability to live in a positive, forgiving, and loving environment. Here we see the importance of our services to raise awareness in the community about mental health and to increase productivity in the country together. Because it is not possible for an individual to be giving, productive and innovative when he is down, depressed, and negative.
The Qatari society, just like every other society whether Arab or the Gulf regions, faces issues with modernity and the fast pace of life, especially in technological aspects like the internet and TV, which lead to a mixture of foreign and hybrid cultures coming in, which in turn lead to our children behaving differently. This has become problematic and very visible. Statistics show that there is a marked increase in mental disorders in our Qatari community, the mental health hospital in Qatar shows the following:
We are a civilian community organization reliant on support from charities as well as other organizations, and our only challenge is finding funding for programs and activities. Although there is support from charities and individuals, it is not sufficient for the level of ambition and services required. We are a specialized mental health association and we don’t get the reaction we need from some because the concept of mental health is unclear for certain organizations and business so they prefer to support or fund charities specialized in poverty or other needs.
There is an understanding from the decision makers in the Arab region but this takes a lot of time. There is a need to create community organizations like ours to pitch in with raising awareness, besides the governmental organizations that provide treatment and rehabilitation. As for the Gulf society, there is still stigma attached to mental disorders and the patients who have them, and this prevents people from getting help or receiving it at the right time.
We organized a huge campaign in which many community members participated, and included officials, decision makers and influencers from all sectors. It was launched on social media and it reached millions. It was deemed the biggest mental health focused campaign in the Arab world. If this leads to any conclusions, it is that the humanitarian side of the Qatari community has been affected. They participated with us in an awareness campaign in the specialized field of mental health.
Thank God first and foremost that we managed, in such a short time, to reach large segments of the Qatari community and started highlighting some mental health issues in many arenas, be it through media or in programs, activities, and events. We noticed more and more individuals and companies getting into mental health topics and their need for our many services. What surprised us was the fact that the demand for services has become more than what we can handle financially and logistically.
Honestly, at the start we were a little worried that we did not have many specialists with us. However, after we got the word out about the organization and once we started working, many volunteer specialists came to us and believed in our vision and mission. We now have a large database of specialists from different fields of mental health. We also have volunteers from outside Qatar, Arab and non-Arab specialists who have made themselves available to us whenever we need them.
Weyak’s mental health consultancy service is a national leading project that was born from a need that families and individuals had in their day to day life. It is a specialized mental health consultancy project that allows people to deal with everyday problems that anyone can face, to find a refuge for advice and guidance from professionals and specialists. At the end of this year we got a little over 2000 online consultations.
What we do is make a difference and spread awareness about the importance of mental health, and highlight cases, patients, illnesses and disorders. We received thousands of phone calls requiring guidance. Advice is given through our phone consultancy services, as well as with our online consultancy service, both through the website or on the smart phone application that has reached 3000 consultations within a year. When we receive a consultation request, it goes directly to the specialist, who responds to it either directly or on the phone within 4 days. We also qualified 60 new mental health guidance specialists throughout the country, and gave hundreds of lectures. We are working very hard on social media presence and using that to raise awareness. We gained millions of followers in the Arab world using social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
We have a great humanitarian message, and the Head of the board of directors, HE Sheikh Thani bin Abdullah Al Thani, is the man who sought to create this organization and believed like his fellow countrymen in the importance of the role of these organizations as they have a direct effect on change in individuals and the community. Therefore, our message is great and we are entrusted with a heavy load, so pray for us and for our success.