Muscat – A psychological association, called Middle East Psychological Association (MEPA), was launched on Saturday to bring together psychologists and other mental health practitioners in Oman to one platform.
In her inaugural speech, Dr Joanne Hands, president of MEPA, said, “The association was first established in Kuwait with the objective of destigmatising psychological health in the Middle East.”
Dr Joanne informed that with the opening in Oman, MEPA has launched seven chapters in the region – Kuwait, UAE, Lebanon, Qatar, Jordan and Bahrain – this year. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are expected to have chapters soon.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a disruption of an unprecedented level, “but finally, now the field of psychology is seen as an important career and profession and more and more people are seeking help and understanding the need to take care of their mental health”, Dr Joanne said.
According to her, the Middle East region currently lacks experts and resources for training mental health professionals. “I have been in the Middle East for 17 years and if I have to upskill myself with the developments in the field of psychology, then I need to travel to the UK, US or Australia to find the expertise and the resources that I could implement in my practice.”
Dr Alya Sultan, director of MEPA Oman, said, “As a psychologist, almost all of us faced these questions – ‘Can you read my mind?’ Or ‘Can you analyse my personality?’ Unfortunately, we can- not read your mind, but as psychologists, we can help you understand why you think the way you think. Our role ranges from raising awareness, to prevention, intervention and treatment.”
Dr Alya added that the profession of psychology is gaining ground in Oman. “However, we have yet to develop our ethical code of conduct and our own independent regulatory board approved by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social Development. So, today marks a very important milestone in the profession of psychology in Oman, and we are honoured to follow the footsteps of our colleagues in neighbouring countries, both in the GCC and across the Middle East, in joining them in launching the Omani chapter of MEPA,” Dr Alya said.
Elaborating on the objectives of the association, Nutaila al Kharusi, secretary of MEPA Oman, said it will bring mental health professionals and psychologists together to make the standard of practice uniform.
“It is similar to what the American psychologists’ association is doing. We are now doing the same for the MENA region, and in doing so, we are highlighting the importance of mental health and the importance of having standardised mental health practices,” Nutaila said.
“We can provide evidence based services to the community. May is Mental Health Awareness Month – the perfect time to launch the Oman chapter of MEPA.”
(Text and Photo by Syed Fasiuddin)