Farah Aqel (left) and Nadia Dabbagh at Dubai Health Forum, Dubai World Trade Centre, Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: A new mental health strategy is set to bring Dubai more in line with international standards, a leading psychiatrist from the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) said on Monday.

Dr Nadia Dabbagh was speaking on the opening day of the Dubai Health Forum at Dubai World Trade Centre.

At present Dubai and the UAE are lagging behind the international average, in terms of the number of psychiatrists and psychiatric beds per population of 100,000 people, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics.

“Internationally the average number of psychiatrists per 100,000 people stands at 6.4, whereas in Dubai it is 4.8 and in the UAE it is 0.5,” said, Dabbagh a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist from Rashid Hospital.

“The average for psychiatric beds per 100,000 people internationally is 29, while in Dubai the average is six, and in the UAE as a whole the average is three,” she added.

A new mental health strategy aims to correct this however, with nine new initiatives; legislation, governance and regulation, promotion and awareness, prevention, early intervention, innovative service delivery, workforce development in recruitment and retention, facilities and patient empowerment.

“Dubai’s mental health strategy is underpinned by guiding principles that are based on international, evidence-based research and best practice, as well as incorporating the views of local subject matter experts working in Dubai,” added Dabbagh.

“The key guiding principles include respect for the rights and needs of service users and their families, prevention and early intervention across the lifespan including vulnerable groups, recognition of the spectrum of mental health difficulties and the need for equitable service delivery across the health continuum with a commitment to a recovery-orientated approach and social inclusion.”

Mental health issues currently figure among the top 10 illnesses in the UAE with depression, anxiety and substance abuse accounting for a large proportion of cases.

Humaid Al Qutami, director-general of Dubai Health Authority said: “The strategy demonstrates the commitment of the DHA to build a world-class health care system to meet the needs of its residents.

“It clearly reflects the DHA’s vision towards a healthier and happier community. It also reflects the greater Dubai 2021 vision for the city of Dubai to be a smart and sustainable city, with people who are happy, creative and empowered, a society that is inclusive and cohesive, and to be the preferred place to live, work and visit.”

According to WHO more than 450 million people suffer from mental health disorders worldwide, and one in four people will develop a mental or behavioural disorder during their lifetime. Globally, mental disorders are expected to be second only to heart disease as a leading source of global burden of disease by the year 2020. Last year’s Global Happiness Survey Report released by the Government Summit found that untreated mental illness reduced the GDP of countries by four per cent.

The two-day Dubai Health Forum is being attended by 1,500 industry professionals benefiting from 62 sessions by 42 speakers from 15 countries.

Nine initiatives of the Mental Health Strategy

  1. Mental health legislation
  2. Governance and regulation
  3. Promotion and awareness
  4. Prevention
  5. Early intervention
  6. Innovative models of service delivery
  7. Workforce development, recruitment and retention
  8. Facilities and infrastructure
  9. Patient empowerment programmes