Abu Dhabi: Free mental health support will now be available for Abu Dhabi residents on the Istijaba hotline, the emirate’s health and community development regulators announced on Wednesday.
By dialling the Department of Health’s (DoH) Istijaba call centre on 8001717, residents can connect with licensed psychology specialists and therapists. The specialists are trained to provide support in a variety of languages, including English, Arabic, Hindi, French, Malayalam, and Tamil.
The mental health hotline is an initiative by the Department of Community Development in Abu Dhabi (DCD), in collaboration with the DoH and its public health wing, the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC), and public health provider, the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha).
In a statement, the DCD said the new service is part of its commitment to support residents facing mental pressures.
“We constantly collaborate with strategic partners in the health and social sectors to implement initiatives and offer services that meet the needs of individuals and the society, to optimally deal with psychological stresses. The project is funded by the DCD’s Authority of Social Contributions — Ma’an — through the social investment fund collected during the ‘Together We Are Good’ programme,” said Dr Bushra Al Mulla, executive director of community development at the DCD.
She urged residents to call the hotline without hesitation, especially as all information shared will be kept strictly confidential. Dr Al Mulla added that the initiative is a response to ongoing challenges with anxiety, tension, and depression among residents, and that the provision of mental health support can help build resilience and help residents adapt to psychological stress.
Prioritising mental health
“At the ADPHC, we prioritise the community’s mental health during and after the pandemic, as global public health research indicates the possibility of continued psychological consequences for individuals who have been infected with COVID-19, or who have been negatively affect,” said Dr Omniyat Al Hajri, director of public health at the ADPHC.
Counselling and psychological support
“During the early stages of Istijaba’s project for psychological support, we proactively allocated this service to individuals within the most psychologically affected groups ... The development of the Istijaba hotline with the inclusion of counselling and psychological support services is a clear indication of the leadership’s belief that mental health is an integral part of public health, which aligns with the efforts of the public health sector and partners to integrate mental health with physical health, and to reduce the stigma related to mental problems,” she added.
The Istijaba call centre, which is associated with DoH’s Medical Operations Command Center, provides its services 24x7 in Arabic and English through the 8001717 toll-free number. The service was initially designated to respond to the concerns of Abu Dhabi patients, before being repurposed to handle COVID-19-related queries. It is available on +971 8001717 when dialled from abroad.
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Mental health concerns have been brought to the fore as one of the major repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities. The DCD had accordingly launched a dedicated hotline in September 2020 to provide mental health support to workers in Abu Dhabi. The Frontline Heroes Office, in collaboration with the Ministry of Community Development, also launched a hotline in November 2020 to provide mental health consultations to frontline workers.