Internationally Renowned Psychiatry Journal Recognizes Qatar’s Achievements in Mental Health Care and Improving Public Attitudes
The BJPsych International Journal article titled “Conflict and community: mental health in the Arab world” highlights positive media's portrayal of mental health in Qatar.
Doha, 9 February 2021: The January 2021 edition of the internationally renowned Psychiatry Journal, BJPsych International, focused on the Middle East and singled out Qatar’s achievements in mental healthcare as being exemplary in the region.
The article highlighted some of the developments in Qatar following the publication of the National Mental Health Strategy: Changing Minds, Changing Lives 2013-2018. This paved the way for more mental health services being provided in collaboration with family physicians. The article stated that “Qatar is leading the way with this enlightened vision” by recognizing the importance of community-based specialist care.
Mr. Iain Tulley, National Lead for Mental Health and Wellbeing in Qatar and CEO of the Mental Health Service at Hamad Medical Corporation explained how the international recognition represented an endorsement of the country’s approach to develop its mental health services.
“Qatar’s national mental health strategy was pivotal to providing a roadmap for the wide-ranging service improvements we planned in our journey towards delivering international best practice care. This included more community based mental health services and addressing the challenges posed by stigma to mental health problems,” said Mr. Tulley.
The progress identified in the journal was evidenced by results from the Qatar Mental Health Attitudes and Awareness Survey of 2020. The survey indicated that 77% of adults in 2020 were highly aware of mental health, compared to only 52% being moderately aware in 2018. In addition, over half of adults (56%) are now aware of where to seek mental health services and support in Qatar, rising from 46% in 2018. More adults expressed increased comfort when talking openly about mental health, increasing from only 17% in 2015 to 21% in 2020. Mental health communications efforts also demonstrated success, with at least 56% of adults surveyed confirming they had noticed recent mental health and wellbeing communications, which was nearly a threefold increase from only 20% in 2018.
“I am delighted that our efforts have been recognized by this internationally respected professional publication and that Qatar’s approach is heralded as a model for other countries in the Arabian Gulf region to follow,” Mr. Tulley added.
The article noted encouraging signs in Qatar’s media which now exhibits less stigmatization of those with mental disorders. This information was based on research conducted by Dr. Khalid Elzamzamy, a Clinical Fellow in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Hamad Medical Corporation, and colleagues, on attitudes to mental health issues in Qatar’s media. By comparing local reporting on mental health with that on physical health, the authors were able to conclude that the media's portrayal of mental health in Qatar is more positive than in many other countries around the world.
Dr. Majid Al Abdulla, Chairman of Psychiatry and Medical Director of the Mental Health Service, welcomed the public recognition of Qatar’s efforts to integrate mental healthcare in the primary healthcare system.
“We have collaborated closely with Primary Health Care Corporation over the past years to ensure family physicians are more equipped to provide early diagnosis and primary care for people with mild to moderate mental health problems. In addition, we have established jointly run specialist clinics in various primary health centers to make it easier for people to seek help,” said Dr. Al Abdulla.
“A major breakthrough however in community-based care has been the establishment of virtual consultation clinics and the Mental Health Helpline last year. While the impetus for these services was the COVID-19 pandemic situation, the overwhelmingly positive feedback has meant that we will continue to provide both services as part of our commitment to make services more accessible and acceptable to those who need help,” added Dr. Al Abdulla.
The National Mental Health and Wellbeing Helpline has managed more than 16000 calls, from members of the public as well as healthcare staff seeking support, in less than 10 months of operation. The service was initially established in April 2020 to provide virtual counselling support for people suffering from stress and other mental and wellbeing problems as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Journal article also includes references from Dr. Ovais Wadoo, Consultant Psychiatrist at Hamad Medical Corporation and his colleagues, who contributed relevant information. The journal is owned by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and offers free and open access to all mental health professionals and other interested.