Posted on March 27, 2016

Achieving good mental and emotional health is being highlighted by students at the University of Calgary in Qatar (UCQ) who are deepening public understanding of mental health and well-being through a range of community projects. These initiatives are part of the University’s strategy to enhance community health, reflecting its vision to offer an environment of mutual care which allows effective learning to take place and in which there is an understanding about mental health and wellness.

“The mental and physical health among our students, faculty and staff is a priority, both on our campus here in Qatar and our main campus in Canada,” said Dr. Kim Critchley, Dean and CEO of UCQ. “As Qatar transitions toward a knowledge-based economy, human capital will be a critical factor. Building communities whose members support and care for each other, a crucial component of our approach to healthcare wellness, promises to enable citizens and residents of Qatar to contribute to national development.”

Promoting open dialogue about psychological health in Qatar, UCQ students have launched various evidence-based awareness campaigns, sharing information, and highlighting means of support. UCQ students initiated two video projects: one assessing Qatar residents’ awareness and knowledge of mental illness; the other separating myth from reality when it comes to suicide, designed to ensure those at risk are encouraged to seek care. In the course of their projects, UCQ students took to the local community at Villaggio Mall by providing residents with vital information about mental illness.

In addition, students also held sessions at Qatar University and Qatar Secondary Independent School for Girls featuring role-playing activities to encourage empathy for the mentally-ill, introducing participants to headsets that simulate auditory hallucinations, and providing students with critical information, focusing particularly on adolescents, who are among those especially at risk. These sessions enabled UCQ to strengthen its ties with the community, and build awareness about the important topic of mental health.

Through their projects, UCQ students are countering the stigmas afflicting those suffering from mental illness, and demonstrate the importance of the compassion that is at the heart of nursing. Promoting mental health and well-being builds both the long-term content and productivity that is conducive to achieving the development goals of Qatar National Vision 2030 where human development lies in preventive and curative health care, both physical and mental, taking into account the differing needs of men, women and children.

Aisha Almarri, a second year Qatari nursing student at UCQ, said: “Our projects allow community members to acquire basic knowledge about the mental illnesses that are prevalent in Qatar, and experience firsthand some of the symptoms with which the mentally ill cope. This initiative has shown that knowledge and empathy can overcome harmful stereotypes, and foster the kind of inclusive development that remains at the heart of the long-term vision Qatar pursues.”

In their outreach, students utilized an array of social media platforms to reach a broad and diverse audience. Students turned to Instagram launching an account that provides useful information about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a mental illness often diagnosed in children that has long been prevalent in Qatar. They also created a Facebook page, titled “Say No to Stigma,” prompting a dialogue about mental health.

For more information about the nursing programs UCQ offers, please visit http://www.ucalgary.edu.qa/

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