10 October is World Mental Health Day
Dr. Majid Al Abdulla, Deputy Chair of Psychiatry at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), said worldwide one in four people will be affected by a mental health or neurological disorder at some point during their life. He said mental health disorders are among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
“The symptoms or warning signs of mental illness vary and may present in a number of different ways, including a sudden change in moods, such as extreme joy to severe sadness, depression, a high level of anxiety, fear, anger, thoughts of self-harm, and violent or negative thoughts. If you notice any symptoms of mental illness, seek immediate medical advice by making an appointment with your primary care doctor who can refer you to HMC. In the case of a mental health emergency, call 999 for the Ambulance Service,” said Dr. Al Abdullah.
Around half of all mental health disorders occur in childhood or adolescence, beginning by the age of 14; up to 75% of mental health conditions develop by the age of 24. According to Dr. Al Abdullah, the symptoms of a mental health illness can vary, depending on the illness and the individual. He says it is important to recognize the warning signs as early intervention can help reduce the severity of an illness.
In recent years, HMC’s Mental Health Services have undergone a number of developments in response to the release of the Qatar National Mental Health Strategy 2013-2018. Existing services have been expanded and new services and facilities have been introduced. Dr. Al Abdulla says that with appropriate treatment and support, mental illnesses are both manageable and treatable.
HMC is the main provider of specialized mental healthcare in Qatar, with services ranging from inpatient and emergency care to community-based services. Dr. Al Abdulla said in addition to treatment, his team places a strong focus on raising public awareness of mental health illnesses as a strategy to eliminating stigma and transforming the way mental illness is perceived and treated in Qatar.
“Our mission is to improve the quality of life of individuals and families by providing compassionate, safe, effective, and accessible patient and family-centered services. We provide treatment and support for children and young people, as well as adults. Our multi-disciplinary healthcare teams are dedicated to helping our patients recover and lead more fulfilling lives,” said Dr. Al Abdulla.
Dr. Al Abdulla added that the majority of people who experience a mental health illness will live within their community and manage their condition with the support of family, friends, and their primary care doctor.
“When people need additional help, we are here to support them. We provide a range of services from community-based support to more specialist care for individuals who have more complex needs. We have a range of outpatient clinics for children and adolescents as well as for adults, including older adults,” said Dr. Al Abdulla.
HMC’s community-based facilities include the Enaya Community Care Center in Muaither. The referral-based center provides patients with a ‘home-like’ setting that is an alternative to hospital-based treatments. The Center provides outpatient services for children and teenagers up to the age of 18 and a daycare program for adult women who have long-term mental health conditions. There is also a residential service for women who have complex mental health needs and require support but do not need acute medical care.
Dr. Al Abdulla said HMC’s mental health team also provides follow-up home visits for adults who have had mental health problems. He said the Department also runs support programs for the elderly, with a variety of medical therapies provided in the home.
He added that ongoing training and education for staff is a key focus for his Department, and he pointed to the upcoming 7th Qatar International Mental Health Conference, being held from 6 to 8 December, as an example of HMC’s ongoing commitment to staff training and continuing education.
Dr. Suhaila Ghuloum, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist and Chair for the 7th Qatar International Mental Health Conference said the event is one of the most important conferences on mental health in the Arab world. She said the event is designed to promote peer-to-peer learning among healthcare professionals working in the mental health field.
“The Qatar International Mental Health Conference is a leading conference on mental health in the Arab World. This is the seventh time that HMC has organized this conference and this accredited learning event provides an outstanding opportunity to earn approved continuing professional development hours. The event also provides an important platform for peer-to-peer networking and encourages scientific collaborations,” said Dr. Ghuloum.
She said mental health research will feature predominately in the Conference’s program and noted that there has been a substantial amount of recent research published in international journals related to mental health services in Qatar, including papers on depression and schizophrenia and work stress and its impact on mental health. She said Qatar is committed to a holistic approach in delivering mental healthcare, which includes psychiatry, psychotherapy, and community care.