One On One: Rabia Usman

Behind the scenes with Rabia Usman


February 05, 2021

Clinical psychologist and certified Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, Rabia Usman has been working towards curbing the taboo associated with mental health issues for over six years. She spacialises in helping patients with depression, anxiety, ADHA, schizophrenia, OCD, PTSD among other mental health issues. Rabia founded The Listener, Pakistan’s premier mental health helpline, in this regard. Rabia talks to TEdit about helping those in c/istress and how online counseling works.

What inspired you to create an online platform The Listener?

As a psychologist myself, I have seen the stigma associated with mental health. It is never given as much attention as it should be. And because of this i wanted to provide a platform that is available to everyone. I created it with the intention that it can be used by everyone and not just the elite class. I feel that there needs to be more focus on mental health care and emotional well being.

Why is The listener needed and who all can benefit from it?

I think the real question is how it isn’t needed. Around 15 million people in Pakistan are suffering from some form of mental illness, even if it is something as common as being stressed. And to be honest, mental health care is not propriety in the health system of Pakistan. My team and I recognised the dire need for it, which is why we are offering services to all parts of the country. And because of the so called social disgrace mental health is associated with; we provide the privacy to whoever feels the need for it. In fact, Pakistan has a higher percentage of depression due to the current social adversities with reports of depression 6%, schizophrenia 1.5%, and epilepsy 1-2% in Pakistan. And according to WHOs Mental Health atlas, there are only four big psychiatric mental hospitals in the entire country. The percentage of child mental disorders is reported to be high in Pakistan but having to persuade their families to get treatment for them is challenging. Because of such circumstances, I felt that The Listener is needed. And we are happy to see that today’s youth at least is more accepting of mental health but still remain suppressed because of the distain they might receive from society or family members. Issues identified with emotional and mental well being escalate the cases of suicide, especially among people aged 25 years and younger.

What benefits does it have?

It provides both online and in person therapy. We offer first sessions free because of the hesitancy that most people get when it comes to seeing a therapist. We put our clients first by adhering to their timing and needs. We want to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible because dealing with issues mentally is difficult. And can take a very big toll on even the strongest person. We offer services 24/7 and there are no days off because our minds don’t take a break. We are here to help and listen to all individuals from every part of this country to make sure that they are heard.

What problems does it solve?

The great thing about therapy is that it is simple but effective. The therapy we provide can address major life changes such as divorce and can also help people manage mental health conditions like depression. There is a common misconception that people who go to therapy as “crazy” when in fact most clients who come to us are ordinary people struggling with common everyday issues like stress at work or having anxiety over an exam. And that is how it should be.

Why did you choose to pursue this specific platform?

As a psychologist myself, I have seen the stigma associated with mental health. It is never given as much attention as it should be. And because of this i wanted to provide a platform that is available to everyone. I created it with the intention that it can be used by everyone and not just the elite class. I feel that there needs to be more focus on mental health care and emotional well being.

Why do you think mental health is a taboo here?

People in society have been silencing the mental health talk for one reason or another. The society seems to be in a denial mode. A person is encouraged to keep their problems to themselves rather than seeking help in fear that it makes them look weak or helpless when in fact it’s the opposite. It takes a very strong person to admit to themselves and to someone else that there is something wrong and i need help. And the question as to why go to therapy? I have friends and family I can talk to, this is in fact true no doubt. But a therapist will provide an unbiased environment where no one will be judged and the first priority will be you. And in the more rural areas, faith healing is the traditional way of treatment and although there is nothing wrong with that.

How qualified are the psychoIogists/ therapists on your platform?

When picking members of my team, I had a clear vision in my mind that I wanted people who are not only qualified in their fields but also have enough experience to know how to deal with even the most difficult cases. We have therapists that can help you deal with depression and anxiety and many other issues. Not just for adults but for children and teens. And issues tend to be experienced differently by each people. They even help identify what is actually bothering our client and clear away any misconceptions. Help them even understand what is happening instead of just telling them something so that they can blindly follow. We realise that it is important for the person to know first most so that they can decide for themselves what step they wish to take.

What is your mission behind The listener?

My mission is to spread awareness when it comes to mental health. To show people how necessary it is to care for yourself mentally. I aim to help people with a variety of mental illnesses or even emotional difficulties so that they can live their best life by functioning better as well as increase healing. Let people know that they are not alone and that they always have someone to come to with their problems no matter how big and small. Mental health is important through every stage in life from childhood to adulthood. It effects how we think and feel and act and so many people don’t seem to know this.


COMMENTS

Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ