Hanan Dover |Founder of PychCentral
In 1882, a small group of Italian men left Roseto Valfortore and set their eyes towards New York. The village they settled in remained relatively unknown until 1961, when a physician caught eye of a strange fact: People in this village had far fewer heart attacks than the normal population. After rigorous analysis of their diet, genetics and more, nothing could explain their health other than one key factor: community wellness.
The idea of measuring wellness in terms of community was a breakthrough. Many saw it with scepticism and many outright rejected it. Yet with the rise of mental health awareness today, our ears are far more open to listening. A community activist and clinical psychologist, Hanan Dover combines this concept of community and individual wellbeing in a powerful way.
Hanan initially caught interest of psychology as a teenager watching Oprah. Witnessing the power and impact that psychologists on the show had, just by changing people’s perspectives, Hanan knew exactly what she wanted to do. Looking around the Muslim community and the clear dysfunctions, stigmas and superstitions that existed, her journey was community oriented from the get-go.
Despite pure intentions and a passion to make a difference, a young Hanan was constantly met with backlash. As an undergraduate, Hanan would have to hear the well-known Muslim adages; “psychology is a haram field”, “there’s no point”, “people just need to pray more”. Lack of Mental wellness was little more than a talking point for how spiritually poor an individual was, or the punishment they were receiving from God. But it was abundantly clear that people were still suffering and that these explanations were simply not helping.
Hanan set out to change this. Alongside her studies, she went back and forth to multiple Muslim community organisations with one aim: placing Muslim mental health on the agenda. As we sit with Hanan on the Transit Lounge, she describes her thought process after being rejected time and time again: “If no organisation invites you in, you build your own house”. Now the founder of Mission of Hope, PsychCentral and the Vice President of the International Association of Muslim Psychologists, it’s clear that Hanan built several of these ‘houses’.
Central to these organisations is a focus on community health and wellbeing. There is no health problem that is too taboo for discussion. Like the town of Roseto, Hanan moves away from diagnosing problems based on individual actions, and toward analysing lifestyles, nutrition, community and more.
On episode 8 of the Transit lounge, we delve more into the deeper spiritual forces at play which motivate Hanan and try understanding how she plays the role of mother, psychologist and community leader, all the whilst having 5 degrees under her belt!