Since the beginning of time, Arab women have unified families, grounding them with the pillars of faith and community. Now, marking the historic reunification of the GCC countries, royals from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE come together for the first time in four years, in our February issue, to show their people – and the world – that they are one. Below, meet HH Sayyida Basma Al Said, the Omani royal tackling mental health issues with creativity.
HH Sayyida Basma Al Said is a woman on a mission to raise awareness as to the importance of mental health. To do so, she uses every tool possible with a focus on creativity and mindfulness. Despite receiving awards honoring her mental health work by the Honorable Lady, Wife of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, HH Sayyida Basma continues to push forward with her dedication to helping people with mental health issues and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Born in the UK and raised and educated in Oman and around the world, HH Sayyida Basma is truly multicultural. She completed her undergraduate studies in Jordan and continued training at Harvard and Michigan University in the US. She received her master’s degree in health counseling in Australia. HH Sayyida Basma is not one to mince words and speaks with ease and confidence, sharing, “I am a clinical counselor and hypnotist trained in PTSD. I have four children between the ages of five and 13. My husband – a university professor with a doctorate in economics – is a huge supporter of what I do and a great inspiration to me.”
Having studied and worked in this field for more than 20 years, she founded the first mental health clinic in Oman, Whispers of Serenity, in 2012. “There was no private sector for treating mental health when Whispers of Serenity opened. Our practice is based on all types of therapy, including new age treatments like art, creativity, and mindfulness. I believe mental health should be
treated with creativity. Even the name is for a place where you feel comfortable the moment you walk through the door. When you come here, we know you are already going through much.” Whispers of Serenity is designed with bright, cheerful colors and carries a soothing essence, which immediately calms the spirit. “I come from a small country in the Gulf. Talking about this is what I do and this is how I use my name,” says Her Highness of her mental health mission. “We have waiting lists for our
clinic and we also see people for free. These are our ‘adopted clients.’” She raises the obvious question before the topic arises, stating, “Is this [mental health] not a taboo? Yes, it is everywhere and always will be. This is such a private matter but now, with Covid-19, we have noticed people are paying more attention to it.” The clinic also focuses on children and bullying and created a group called Young Minds, which reaches out to concerned young people to speak at conferences, address the press, and interview health professionals with the aim to give them a voice of their own. Serenity also produces art competitions and visits other cities to spread the word. “Anything to push how important this is, but always in a creative way,” affirms HH Sayyida Basma.
While these initiatives began pre-Covid-19, since the start of the pandemic, other challenges presented themselves, with issues needing to be addressed urgently and differently. Serenity set up hotlines with everyone on staff taking turns answering and helping people. Perhaps unexpectedly, they found calls coming in from around the world. True to her optimistic attitude, HH Sayyida Basma shares, “Covid has done a lot of bad, but also, for the good, it has forced us to look outside the box. People want to know that they are not alone. Let’s make it easy to understand and go into every house and help every person.” It appears that nothing can slow down this dynamic, vibrant visionary, who also started offering online therapy sessions. When the Beirut blast occurred, without missing a beat, she asked, “What can we do to help?” The clinic shared its hotline and offered PTSD treatment to whoever needed it, including medical professionals.
Now, with the historic union of the GCC countries, she is certain that more leaps and bounds forward for everyone in the region will follow. “I grew up in a Gulf country and we were all raised together as one. We are neighbors. The six countries have always been together. When the break happened, it didn’t feel right. It was like losing a family member,” she shares, adding, “In Oman, we never lost contact with anyone, but it still felt so sad. It was so awkward. Now that we are all back, just seeing that picture of unity feels so good. It is empowering and makes me feel happy and joyful. When we were little, we all learned a song, which in Arabic says, ‘We are all one and we all live together.’ Look at a tree. You can cut it down, but the roots are there. In the Gulf, we all have the same roots.”
Originally published in the February 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia
Photography: Imad Hasan
Assistant photographer: Said Al Wahaibi, Imad Salih
Hair and makeup: Boudoir Boutique
Nails: Beauty on Wheels
Studio: Brand Infiniti
Production: Imad Hasan, Ankita Chandra