A woman being examined at a psychiatric hospital in Dubai. Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: In a major step to recognise rising prevalence of mental health disorders, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) on Wednesday launched the first comprehensive mental health strategy for Dubai. The strategy titled ‘Happy Lives, Healthy Communities’ was launched in line with Dubai Health Strategy 2016-2021 to work towards successful implementation, active community participation to remove the stigma attached to it and empowerment of the patient, said a top DHA official.

Launching the strategy, Humaid Mohammad Obaid Al Qutami, chairman of the board and director-general of DHA, said he wants Dubai to be a smart and sustainable city where people who are happy, creative and empowered live.

“Demand for mental health services in Dubai has increased in both the public and private sectors. Mood disorders, anxiety, developmental disorders, psychotic disorders and behavioural and emotional disorders account for 88 per cent of outpatient diagnosis at DHA facilities.”

The impact

It is estimated that one in four individuals suffers from some kind of mental disorders in his lifetime affecting 450 million globally. These disorders include schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder, depression, alcohol and other drug disorders, and a range of anxiety disorders.

The prevalence of mental and behavioural disorders is about 10 per cent of the adult population worldwide, and 20 per cent of the adolescents under the age of 18 suffer from developmental, emotional or behavioural problems.

According to the Global Happiness Survey Report released at the World Government Summit in Dubai in February this year, untreated mental illness reduces the GNP (gross national product) of countries by four per cent. Many other costs associated with mental illness are indirect or hidden. Indirect costs include loss of productivity attributable to the illness and costs related to morbidity, premature mortality, incarceration, and caregiver time. Mental health policy

Fatima Abbas, director of Policy and Strategy Department at the DHA, said they have chalked out a specialised policy based on a comprehensive analysis in consultation with international organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Dr Nadia Dabbagh, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at Rashid Hospital and programme lead for the Mental Health Strategy at the DHA, said the implementation plan is divided into phases based on the priorities, needs and resources.

It will be rolled out according to the four pillars of the strategy, which are legislation and governance for successful implementation of this strategy; promotion, prevention and early intervention; service delivery and finally recovery by establishing accessible community services; and finally, introduction of patient empowerment programmes.

“The DHA is prepared to launch a multi-pronged approach that will include implementing several initiatives such as promoting a healthy start to life, parenting programmes, school-based interventions, support for children of parents with mental illness, workplace and occupational stress interventions, recovery-oriented approaches, interventions for older people, among other things,” said Dr Dabbagh.

The DHA plans to engage all stakeholders aligning the mental health strategy with the disability strategy, family upbringing, early childhood development, reduction of addiction and drug abuse, and health care investment strategy.

10 mental health initiatives by 2021

1) Conducting research studies in the mental health sector

2) Reorganisation of the mental health services in Dubai

3) Education and training of medical staff working in the field of mental health

4) Professional development of mental health professionals

5) Provision of mental health assessments and investigations

6) Establishment of rehabilitation programmes for individuals after suicide attempts

7) Support services for sufferers of post-traumatic disorders

8) Development and implementation of a mental health strategy in Dubai

9) Raising community awareness about mental health

10) Attraction and retention of professionals in the mental health sector