The Middlesex University Dubai Health Out Loud series was started by the Task Force on Happiness and Wellbeing in February 2020. The aim of the series is to open discussion about health and wellness each month, collaborate with local wellness organisations, and to bring industry specialists, university staff, and students together on panels to discuss different topics to do with wellbeing at university. 

mdxMindset interviewed Ayah Al Atassi, Psychology student at MDX Dubai and one of the student panelists from a past Health Out Loud session, to get her feedback on panel participation and the series itself.

I believe discussing issues such as mental health and wellness on a larger public platform is very important. This is because of the stigma surrounding such issues, especially in Eastern cultures. Thus, it is highly necessary to raise awareness among people and inform them about mental wellbeing, which will, hopefully, lead to a decrease in the aforementioned stigma.

Older individuals usually disregard the younger generation’s opinions and voices, sometimes due to cultural practices. Additionally, if students who are able to discuss their experiences and feelings in regard to their wellbeing refrain from such discussions, then this will, unfortunately, lead to an increased sense of shame or sadness among other students who have similar issues. For that reason, I believe students should always have the chance to speak up about their problems in campus discussions in order to raise awareness about mental wellness issues among their peers and professors.

Based on my experience at Middlesex University, the academic community is very supportive of students’ wellbeing. An example of this can be the Wellness Support Group, in which students can openly discuss issues they are experiencing while feeling safe and unjudged by members of the group. Moreover, the academic community’s support was especially evident during these difficult times, as teachers pushed back deadlines and did their best to make sure students feel as comfortable as possible and ensure that their mental wellness is a priority.

I noticed after the discussion took place that my friends and I felt more motivated and excited to complete our assignments and projects. I believe this was because we felt heard and appreciated by our professors and that our struggles are still valid even though they may be deemed insignificant in comparison with what others are experiencing. So, if further discussions – such as the ones that were held during this year – continue to take place, it will have a very positive effect on students’ attitudes towards their academic work.

I found that my classmates enjoyed the discussion much more than I had initially expected. Some of them even commented that they wished it had lasted longer than it did. They were very appreciative of the advice given regarding their physical and mental wellbeing. In addition to that, the comment most repeated to me by my peers was how exciting it was for them to express their thoughts, feelings, and struggles anonymously through me.

Such events will have an increasingly positive impact, as they will encourage more students to make their voices heard through participating in the conversation, asking questions, or sharing their experiences, which will create a deeper connection among students who may be experiencing similar struggles and will make teachers more aware of the collective student experience. This will eventually aid in the overall improvement of students’ wellbeing and their life on campus.

My participation in the webinar has benefited me greatly in various manners. It helped me gain media exposure through Instagram posts and the Dubai Eye radio interview that took place a few days after the seminar. Both of those things will be very helpful in the future. Additionally, my participation has enabled me to connect with many individuals who sympathize with what we, as students, are going through.