The statistics around suicide are shocking. According to the World Health Organisation, more than 700,000 people commit suicide each year. Suicide is also the fourth leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds.
Thankfully, Amal Counseling for Better Tomorrow, otherwise known as Amal Counsel, is on a mission to tackle this ever-growing crisis. Amal, meaning ‘hope’, is born out of a desire to provide accessible and affordable therapy services for everyone in the UAE.
Launched in June 2020, right at the height of the pandemic, it is proud to be the UAE’s only private non-profit counseling organization.
Offering a free, 24-hour support helpline and reasonably priced in-person and virtual counseling sessions, Amal Counsel provides support and advice for a range of mental health issues. This includes depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, developmental conditions and behavioral problems. Over the past three years, the organization has provided counseling for nearly 200 people, and support and advice for more than 500 callers.
A safe space for all
Naila Al Moosawi, founder and CEO of Amal Counsel, originally didn’t plan on launching her counseling service until 2025. However, when she saw how much stress and pressure residents were under during the pandemic, she realized that something had to be done immediately.
She says: “The pandemic caused many hardships, and it became clear that the UAE urgently needed an affordable therapy service. Our goal from the very beginning has been to spread peace and hope. We want to create a future where mental health is prioritized across the world.”
With a team of 20 diverse multicultural counselors, Amal provides a free pre-counseling psychological assessment for every client. This ensures that everyone is matched with exactly the right counselor for them.
“Our 24/7 hotline is a safe space for anyone who is seeking comfort and genuine human connection. Whether you’re feeling unhappy but can’t explain why, or having thoughts of suicide, we offer a calm voice of reason on the other end of the line. Our counselors can explain how to cope with the loss of a loved one or a breakdown of a relationship. They can help you through a panic attack or simply listen to you talk,” continues Al Moosawi.
“We are here to make you feel heard when it feels like no one is listening, guide you towards making the right choice when you feel like your mind is acting against you, and provide a sense of clarity when all seems hopeless. We will help you navigate through the confusion of why you’re feeling the way you are.”
As a certified counselor with a Master’s Degree in psychology and counseling, the Emirati wants to change preconceptions about mental health and emphasize that “it’s okay not to be okay”.
“Our rates are highly affordable compared to the rest of the market,” explains Al Moosawi. “All our counselors offer their services at a subsidized rate. We’re always trying to diversify our team by onboarding more male counselors, people from different ethnic backgrounds, and those who are multilingual. In Arab culture there are still a lot of misconceptions about mental health, and we’ve recently started a dedicated outreach program for the Arab population. We’re currently recruiting interns, including university students and aspiring psychologists, to be part of this Arab committee.”
Al Moosawi emphasizes that while everyone’s experience with mental health is different, there are a few key signs that can indicate you need professional help.
“If you notice that you are continually unhappy, rather than just feeling down for a day or so, or if you are struggling to live a normal life because of your feelings, it is imperative to seek professional help. You shouldn’t just rely on self-diagnosis,” she notes.
Healing through therapy
Looking forward, Al Moosari hopes to expand her company to the UAE’s insurance and education sectors, and take Amal overseas to developing countries where suicide is most common.
“We’ve received some lovely feedback from our clients,” she says. “One described us as ‘the light in darkness for anyone in despair’ while another told us we had assisted them through their lowest and darkest points, and reshaped their mindset to be more positive. We help people address and heal their past traumas, and empower them to cope with the complications of daily life.”
Amal also offers corporate wellness programs, art therapy sessions and public webinars in topics such as suicide prevention and understanding mental health.
For more mental health tips and advice, visit Amal Counsel’s social media pages.
Amal Counsel’s crisis hotline is free to use by calling +971 50 964 5214. You can also contact the team via WhatsApp, or email them via [email protected].