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As the year draws to a close, I am sure many of us will be casting a retrospective glance at the twelve months that have gone by. A year that, like most, I am certain will have been full of personal challenges and triumphs, lessons, and transformative moments, writes Dr Naim Maadad, CEO and founder of Gates Hospitality.

2023, too, has proven to be another year in which the topic of mental health has continued to be a main talking point, perhaps little wonder with everything that is happening in the world right now. Wherever we are on the path, whether it be policymakers, mental health professionals, or employers like me who want to provide the best environment for their employees, the lessons that we learn are ever-evolving.

As I’ve traveled along my own journey of discovery, spoken to experts, and engaged with resources like MENTL, one of the things that I’ve learned the most is the need to consider the undeniable differences in the way that different nationalities and cultures express their feelings, with perceptions and understanding of mental health varying considerably.

Living and working in a multicultural city like Dubai, is something that we must especially be mindful of. While some societies have made significant strides in destigmatising mental health issues, others continue to grapple with deeply ingrained taboos. This year, I’ve come to realise, even more so than I did already before, that like most things, a one size fits all approach is often counterproductive.

Be it here in the UAE, or indeed back home, we don’t always know what people have got going on in their lives and so it’s crucial that for those who are perhaps unaware of what mental health really means, we define what constitutes mental health and show the ways in which people can get support if they need it.

This is why I’ve been heartened by the increase in avenues and opportunities to engage in conversations about mental wellness. Governments and societies are recognising the importance of mental health, and implementing mechanisms to support and destigmatise the subject.

I’m also proud to see Dubai start-ups leading the way too, with the likes of LVL Wellbeing receiving $10m in funding to grow their services to reach more people in the GCC as part of their global expansion plans. Dubai is a leader in so many different industries, how great would it be for us to own this one too?

Looking forward to 2024, it is imperative to build on this momentum. As an employer, I’m particularly interested in ways I can support the workplace, a place where individuals spend a significant portion of their lives. While at Gates Hospitality, we have long treated mental health in the same way as any other illness,  with support, medical help and time off provided, I’m keen to continue to look for ways to do more and over the next twelve months will be focusing on really educating and empowering line managers to make sure that they are aware of their teams mental state.

A highlight for me this year was bringing a mental health trainer in to help the team with emotional training, explaining to the team the importance of confidence and how to overcome any challenges that they may face. These are not only lessons that will help with productivity and overall job satisfaction, but life lessons that I am sure will help our employees in their society and communities too.  

My own learning about the nuances of mental health is continuing to evolve, and I’m looking forward to what the next year brings. Together, let’s make a resolution to pave the way for a more compassionate and informed society, one that prioritises well-being without stigmas.

Dr Naim Maadad, is CEO and founder of Gates Hospitality, Chairman Australian Business Council, and a judge for ‘the mentl awards 2023