The Time has Come to Speak of Mental Health
When meeting Tala Al Kurd you are politely greeted with a candid smile, a gentle demeanor, perceptive hazel eyes, and a hypnotic voice. A first impression befitting of a trustworthy psychotherapist who’s interpersonal skills will help form the alliance needed for an honest and intimate conversation. But first impressions can be misdealing. Don’t be fooled by Tala’s calm temperament. She is a kick-boxing change maker with a lauding voice that needs to be heard as she challenges the stigma of mental health, in a society where it still remains a taboo.
The prevalence of mental health concerns has risen over the past few years, only to surge as the world delt with a global pandemic. People were faced with dramatic changes that disrupted their daily lives. Faced with uncertainty, the vast majority of people were experiencing some level of distress, anxiety, and fear. Feelings of helplessness perpetuated a relentless state of worry and mental health was brought to the forefront. As the pandemic progressed the world witnessed business leaders, athletes, and politicians advocate for the need of more mental health awareness.
Following her passion, Tala realized the need to initiate awareness with regard to mental health and addressed the matter by launching her Arabic language podcast Yala Nihki.’ A platform with the ambitious aim to begin and support a continuonus, honest discussion about mental health in our community. Demystifying its definition, clarifying its concepts, and delivering educated content for our region. By raising awareness to the different characteristics of mental health, Yalla Nihki’ aims to help people break the stigma and comprehend its importance. Tala highlights “that its okay to reach out and ask for help with regard to mental health. In addition to recognizing that there are different ways to work mental wellbeing concerns. It’s a strictly subjective experience and a personalized approach, not one size that fits all.”
The pursuit of mental wellbeing awareness stems from Tala’s firm belief that “mental health is the foundation of our state of being. It’s important because one can’t separate the mind and body. The relationship between the two indicates that as much as we care for our physical being, it has to be met with the same care for our mental wellbeing.” The mind-body connection is evident in the example of an individual’s response to stress, mental worry can manifest physically via headaches, muscle tension and sleepless nights.
With mental health being the current buzzword, it is essential to properly define what is mental health? And what it means to a practitioner advocating for its importance. Tala’s preferred definition of mental health is a comprehensive one, that encompasses wellbeing without it only being the absence of mental illness.
“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”
She further stresses that “while mental illness can be an isolating and personal struggle, it is also a public health issue. We as a society need to view mental disorders like other chronic medical conditions. They are highly treatable. For many individuals, recovery from mental disorders is possible. This message needs to be further emphasized to combat stigma and encourage more people to seek treatment.”
Mental health matters, since it affects all aspects of one’s life, encompassing the way one feels, acts, and thinks. Mental wellbeing concerns should be normalized and addressed as part of an all-inclusive approach to health, as Tala points out, “many people take care of their physical health before they feel sick. They may eat well, exercise and try to get enough sleep to help maintain wellness. You can take the same approach to mental health. Just as you may work to keep your body healthy, you can also work to keep your mind healthy.”
Yalla Nihki’ provides the means for people to learn more about mental health issues, as it addresses concerns and practical strategies on how to manage and understand ones general wellbeing. Listeners can tune into bimonthly conversations with professionals in the field on a variety of curated topics that are relevant to need and concern.
Passed topics have addressed a variety of issues from anxiety, impact of Covid on mental health and wellbeing and grief to the importance of art therapy as a meditative means that allows for self-expression. Subjects that Tala will be tackling are ones regarding “trauma in all its forms and treatments, emotional mastery and the long impact of Covid on mental health. Social Emotional Learning and its important role in education during these days.” Also addressing “geriatric (elderly) mental health because it’s an area that’s neglected and not talked about.”
It’s Tala’s vision to start narrowing down the discussions to make the podcast as specific and focused as possible so as to develop the necessary tips and strategies that help people, break the stigma attached to mental wellbeing due to lack of awareness, advocate for the importance of mental health and develop their mental wellbeing habits.
When asked about Yalla Nihki’ Tala shares her pride “that this platform is now accessible” and she contributes its success to the support she received from “discussions with Imad Shawa and Lara Darwazeh who both host their respective podcasts, Howdy Arabia and A Troubadour Woman. To the mastery of podcast ins and outs of Rajai Sahouri and artistic touches of Hiba Sahouri.” To her family and friends that encouraged her in every step of the journey and the continual support of Dr. Falah Al Tamimi Founder and Director of Mental Health Hub. And a special nod to all the guests who share her concerns and participated in informative discussions.
Tune-in and Yalla Nihki,’ the time has come to speak of Mental Health.