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Mood disorders such as depression and bipolar and anxiety disorders such as phobias are among the common mental disorders seen in Dubai Health Authority’s (DHA) Mental Health Clinics.  

Following World Mental Health Day, which fell on October 10, and focused on the theme “young people and mental health in a changing world”, DHA doctors stressed the importance of parents’ roles in understanding the early warning signs and symptoms of mental illness among their children. 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, but most cases go undetected. 
Therefore, WHO stresses the importance of helping young people build mental resilience from an early age, understanding the symptoms of mental illness and helping children build life skills to help them cope with everyday challenges at home and in school. 

Dr Shamsa Al Suwaidi, Family Medicine specialist and member of the mental health task force at the DHA, said the organisation set up two Mental Health Clinics at Al Safa and Al Mamzer Health Centres. “Depression and anxiety are among the common mental disorders seen at DHA’s mental health clinics,” she said.  

In addition to the Mental Health Clinics at Al Safa and Al Mamzer Health Centres, DHA also has a full-fledged psychiatry department at Rashid Hospital, where patients can  be assessed and treated by physiatrists and social workers. 

Dr Khawla Al Mir, consultant psychiatrist and acting head of the psychiatry department at Rashid Hospital said that while each type of mental illness has a different set of symptoms, parents should generally look out for certain signs such as confused thinking or a reduced ability to concentrate, excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt.  Other signs include extreme mood changes, anti-social behaviour, delusion, paranoia, inability to cope with daily problems or stress and excessive anger. 

Dr Al Mir revealed that mental illness could also sometimes cause physical pain such as stomach and back pain, headaches, or other unexplained aches and pains.

She also revealed that while confirmed causes for mental illnesses haven’t been found, specialists mainly held genetic and environmental factors accountable. 

Dr Al Mir added that some studies found certain genes possibly aiding in increase the risk of developing mental illness. Meanwhile, environmental causes include exposure to violence or stressors at a young age. Sometimes environmental exposure to toxins and inflammatory conditions before birth are also believed to be a cause of mental illness. 

Dr Al Mir revealed that if parents felt their child suffered from a mental illness, they should have an open discussion about their concerns and provide professional care through a qualified mental health specialist.  

Mental health strategy

Earlier this year, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) launched the Mental Health Strategy for the emirate.

The strategy known as Happy Lives… Healthy Community is Dubai’s first comprehensive mental health strategy and is applicable across all public and private health entities in the emirate.

The strategy demonstrates the commitment of the DHA to build a world-class healthcare system to meet the needs of its residents. 

The implementation plan of the Mental Health Strategy is divided into waves based on the priorities, needs and resources and how they are aligned to the four pillars of the strategy, which are: Legislation and governance, promotion, prevention and early intervention, service delivery, and recovery and patient empowerment programmes.