Abu Dhabi: A community group in Abu Dhabi is helping raise awareness and support for people struggling with mental health issues. The group organises regular monthly events for individuals to speak about the challenges they face in their condition.

“There is a stigma attached to mental health problems. A lot of people often don’t want to talk about it or they suffer in silence, so we decided to start our group to act as a support organisation for people who are going through mental issues. Our goal is to create a safe and non-judgemental environment where they can come and talk about their struggles,” said Aditi Bhatia, 24, one of the founders of Soul Knit.

“We believe that having a support group is very important, because sometimes a person may want medical help but the costs are too expensive and they can’t afford it. After that, there isn’t much they can do without alternate sources or support groups for them to go to,” she added.

Bhatia said the group’s events are open to anyone struggling with mental health issues. Their events also give people the chance to meet others facing the same problems.

“At our meetings, we give everyone the opportunity to talk about their problems. Issues range from feeling depressed and anxious, having family issues, or getting bullied at school. Everyone has their own reason for why they are facing mental health problems. Our role is to listen to them and provide whatever support we can.

“Another positive of having such a group is that it connects people together. It lets them know that they are not alone, that there are others out there also struggling. Often times, people going through mental health issues feel isolated and that they’re the only ones facing such struggles. We hope that they can draw strength and inspiration from one another,” she added.

Bhatia said the group’s members come from several countries, and are equal number of men and women.

“We get around 50 people who come to our events and they are of several different nationalities. Our events are culturally mixed, and this just shows how mental health problems can affect anyone.

“As for age, most of our attendees are between 15 and 25, so it’s mainly young people. They are, in fact, the most vulnerable as well because they don’t have the right wherewithal when they want to seek help,” Bhatia added.

Ayinka Weerasinghe, 18, the other co-founder of the group, said she herself coped with mental health struggles, which motivated her to help start the group.

“When I was going through difficult times, I found it really hard to ask for help, and when I looked for professional medical services they were too expensive. There are a lot of young people who face the same situation, and so that motivated me to start Soul Knit.

“Talking about mental health issues and being able to share your feelings about what you’re going through is important. When I had nobody to reach out to, it made my situation harder,” she added.

“Soul Knit has become like my second home. It’s a place where I can learn from others and also share my own experiences. We can talk to each other without the fear of being judged,” Weerasinghe said.

According to both women, the group is also planning to form links with medical clinics to offer support mental health support.

“That’s our next plan: we want to contact and establish partnerships with medical clinics offering support and professional help. That way, if someone comes to us and ask for professional help, we can always refer them to these clinics and hospitals,” said Bhatia.

Soul Knit can be found online on their official Facebook page: facebook.com/soulknituae