Mental Health in the UAE: Reforming Approaches to Treat Them

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Addressing mental issues and making the same on the top priority on public health agendas across the UAE has never been so pertinent. Many organizations are analyzing the urgency based on the accentuating evidence of the magnitude of mental health problems in the Middle East.

Mental health disorders are increasing at an unprecedented rate, affected as many as 25 per cent individuals every year. Furthermore, over the course of a lifetime, around 45 per cent of people witness at least more than one mental health issue. The burden caused on society and the economy is enormous: amounting to 7.4 per cent of the burden of disease worldwide, 9.34 per cent in Saudi Arabia, and 8.05 per cent in the United Arab Emirates. They are causing more economic losses when compared to other chronic diseases such as cancer or diabetes.

Starting from Scratch

There is a wide perception that a common understanding of the mental health issues in the region is limited and mainly linked with a few illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. That said, the scope of mental disorders is much broader than one might think. It includes other problems that affect the well-being of the individuals like anxiety, depression, developmental disorders (eg: autism, ADHD), addiction and eating disorders to mention a few. While many methods have been developed such as autism test for teens to treat a certain disorder, there is still a long way to go to develop a more practical approach. 

Although the UAE is witnessing an increasing number of child therapy centre in Dubai, the current scenario demands carving out holistic approaches to address mental health issues. This demands the addition of more inclusive and effective systems. In the need to reshape the system and advance the quality of care and life of mental health patients, several important elements need to be prudently combined to drive this vital alteration.

From Asylums to Community-Based Care

There are many developing countries across the world that spend the hefty amount of their mental health funding on incompetent approaches to handling, instead of treating, mental health patients. There is also a wide consensus that a hospital-based provision for mental health care has demonstrated to be inefficient. It is also projected that it indirectly contributes to the consolidation of the problem.

On the contrary, stronger community-based care, followed by more specialized and advanced care in hospitals for some severe cases, has proven to be more effective in supporting and averting mental health disorders. The famous children psychologist in Dubai testifies to this approach. This shift towards more comprehensive and shared care supports regarding the treatments of mental health patients proved to give more beneficial results in society.

A Capability-Building Journey

A qualified and efficient workforce is the bedrock of mental health transformation. Ironically, it is one of the major hindrances while implementing an effectual community-based care delivery model. In fact, accentuating the number of healthcare professionals and their abilities to give the desired outcomes and services has been tremendously problematic, even in the first world countries. 

This is mainly due to the absence of dedicated staff, low motivation levels, limited financial resources, and lack of collaboration between the various departments of care. This challenge is looming large over the rural areas where the need is high but the supply is limited at the same time.

Therefore, the government needs to trigger other pragmatic approaches to fill in the lacuna that has been created by the absence of the workforce. The effort has been seen by the increasing number of autism schools in Dubai. Other things include changing the mental health functions from more specialized professionals to general practitioners and nurses. This should be followed by training and capability building. This ultimately leads to the creation of new positions in mental health, such as psychosocial workers which then receive the training to support and manage mental health patients in the society.

A Cross-Agencies Mandate

The agenda of mental well-being lies at the crossroads of numerous multiple agencies and sectors, including education, health care, labour, justice and social services. A cross-agency mandate demands the need for strong collaboration so as to make sure better cures, early diagnosis, improved treatment, and efficient integration of patients into society.

The path of revolutionizing the mental health sector has always been coupled with challenges and obstacles. Developed mental health systems across the world highlighted the need to streamline the process of transition: core medical requirements, including fit-for-purpose facilities, access to medication, and multimodal integrated care. They should be available every single time. Additionally, sufficient health care capabilities and personnel, suitable funding mechanisms and resourceful collaboration among service agencies will be obligatory to ensure effective handling of patients along with their families and caregivers.

While UAE is paving its way to developing more pragmatic approaches to address the issues, there are many popular clinics such as Camali Clinic in Dubai which are delivering their services day and night to enhance the well-being of individuals in the society.