Monday, December 8, 2014

Mental Health in the UAE Calls for Community Involvement

By: Zainab Kandeh
Produced & edited by: Olivia Harlow

Depression, Bipolar Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are just few of the many mental illnesses that people all over the world live with everyday including those who have yet to be diagnosed.
While there are facilities and professionals ready and willing to help people who have a mental illness, coming forward and seeking help in the UAE and throughout the world can be a difficult step.
Zayed University Associate Professor and Psychologist, Dr. Justin Thomas said that issues with treatment methods often make people reluctant to seek help. 
“Treatment is often poor and takes little account of the clients world view, Dr. Thomas said. “Anti depressants for example [are] over prescribed and [have] lots of side effects with little evidence of efficacy beyond placebo.”


Zayed University Assistant Provost for Student Affairs and counseling psychologist, Dr. Fatima AlDarmaki said that differences in culture and fear of alienation are factors that contribute to why people may be reluctant to seek treatment. 
“There is a lot of cultural misunderstanding and stereotyping about the mentally ill,” Dr. AlDarmaki said. “Not everybody who’s having mental health issues is insane. That’s what I think mainly people are afraid of. The concern about their image and the concern about how other people will perceive them is sometimes why they try to tolerate the sickness or the problems alone without talking to anyone about it but it gets to the point where they can not tolerate it and they have to share it with somebody.”
A client feeling as if they can share their experience and build a relationship with a health professional is something Clinical Psychologist and Head of the Psychology Division for the American Center for Psychiatry and Neurology, Dr. Susan Partridge said is most important in the UAE.
“The therapeutic relationship is really important in working here,” Dr. Partridge said. “It’s important anywhere but in the Arab world the emphasis on relationships makes it even more central-without it you are likely to fail to engage your client in the therapeutic endeavor.  After that you need a good formulation (an understanding of how the problem started and what maintains it) and that should indicate what intervention is needed.”
Dr. AlDarmaki said that honesty and clear expectations also add to the success of a client continuing with treatment.


“You have to explain to the patients and clients how [treatment] works and what the expectation is. If the client expects that in one session, oh, I will feel good or I will recover from my issues, they will be disappointed if they don’t see immediate results and maybe they will not come back. You have to explain how treatment works and you have to explain the role of what they need to do to outside of therapy. Clients need to be motivated. If the client is not motivated treatment usually doesn’t work.”
There are many facilities throughout the UAE equipped to help people with mental illnesses, including centers such as the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City managed by the Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi and the American Center for Psychiatry and Neurology located in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.
While facilities continue to expand and improve American University of Sharjah Assistant Professor of Psychology, Dr. Sabrina Tahboub-Schulte said the effort must continue.
“It is great that there is an increasing number of clinics and hospitals available,” Dr. Tahboub-Schulte said. “This trend should continue combined with more awareness campaigns and educational programs.”
Zayed University Psychology Professor Man Chung echoed Dr. Tahboub-Schulte’s sentiment and challenged the public to take an active role in learning about mental illness.
“I think we have to educate the public first on what mental illness is,” Dr. Chung said. “We need to educate the public about that and almost begin to change the way in which people think about mental health difficulties. Mental health is nothing that people need to be afraid of. People with mental health problems are able to help themselves but I think the general public doesn’t necessarily see that.”


The World Health Organization hopes to and is activly steps to ensure that the importance of mental health education is known around the world. In its Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 the World Health Organization plans to influence mental illness with four objectives; to strengthen effective leadership and governance for mental health, provide comprehensive, integrated and responsive mental health and social care services in community-based settings, implement strategies for promotion and prevention in mental health and strengthen information systems, evidence and research for mental health.
While the world has come a long way in the treatment and understanding of those who have mental illnesses, it is on the radar of many countries that more should be done, including the UAE. Being as that mental health affects all people, Dr. AlDarmaki said she hopes that people realize the role that mental health plays throughout one’s life.
“Mental health is part of our lives,” Dr. AlDarmarki said. “Mental health is what brings you to work and makes you interact with people so it’s important that we support any effort to emphasize mental health and the services for mental health for those who need mental health services. Policies, procedures, services, accessibility, education and awareness are all important. As physical health is important mental health is important. As education is important mental health is important. Emotional support and mental health support is important.

No comments: