Doha, 23 March 2021: Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) recently hosted its sixth Annual Symposium of Community Mental Health Services in Qatar. This year’s theme is “Standing Up for Mental Health: Implications Beyond COVID-19”, which highlights the importance of providing ongoing community-based mental health care during challenging times.
Mr. Mahmoud Saleh Al Raisi, Chief of HMC’s Continuing Care Group, said HMC’s Mental Health Service is proud to take a key role in providing a platform for dialogue among stakeholders, particularly around the future development of integrated mental health services in Qatar.
“Mental health and well-being is one of the priority areas in the Qatar’s National Health Strategy 2018-2022, which includes a specific focus on encouraging people to speak openly about mental health in an effort to reduce stigma and encourage early treatment. This symposium provides an important platform for stakeholders to discuss topical issues, including the growing demand for community-based mental health services amidst dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mr. Al Raisi.
Mr. Iain Tulley, National Lead for Mental Health and Wellbeing in Qatar and CEO of HMC’s Mental Health Service explained that good mental healthcare is based on the effective integration of mental health services.
“Provide easier access to the right care, at the right time, in the right place is a key tenant of Qatar’s strategic healthcare plans and has been a guiding force for HMC’s ongoing enhancements to the mental healthcare provisions. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a detrimental effect on many people’s mental health and wellbeing, but the risk from infection has meant that traditional consultations had to be moved online. We have adapted our delivery of care to incorporate more telemedicine and thankfully this approach has resonated well with patients,” said Mr. Tulley.
Dr. Majid Ali Al Abdulla, Chairman of Mental Health Services at Hamad Medical Corporation said that this is the sixth time that this important educational and networking event has been held, bringing together key stakeholders who are instrumental in the delivery of mental healthcare in the community.
“We have collaborated on a national level to establish a mental health helpline, which is accessible through the tollfree national helpline number 16000.This has been a lifeline for many people experiencing heightened anxiety and stress as a result of the pandemic. The confidential multilingual helpline has managed over 20,000 calls to date,” said Dr. Abdulla.
The community service expansion includes more mental health clinics offered in primary healthcare centers across Qatar as well as targeted training of primary health clinicians to support early diagnosis and intervention. Dr. Samya Al Abdulla, Deputy Lead, National Mental Health Strategy & Executive Director of Operations at Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) delivered one of the Symposium keynotes on the challenges of mental healthcare during the COVID-19 era and PHCC’s approach to dealing with the challenges.
Dr. Mohamed Ali Siddig Ahmed, Clinical Director of Community Mental Health Services at HMC and the Symposium Chairperson, explained the symposium’s theme highlighted the importance of partnerships among organizations and individual stakeholders across Qatar during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have extensive experience in delivering services close to home, including long-term residential facilities in the community, and have seen the value of close coordination between mental health professionals and support agencies in patient recoveries. We focus on ensuring that our community-based services enable people with mental disorders to maintain family relationships, friendships, and jobs while receiving treatment and place a great emphasis on rehabilitation,” said Dr. Ahmed.
Substantial investment has been made to provide accessible, effective, and high-quality community-based mental healthcare services. The achievements have been made possible through the collective engagement from HMC, Primary Healthcare Corporation (PHCC), Sidra Medicine and Naufar as well as other partners, such as Qatar Red Crescent and the Community Police, and support from the Health Profession Awareness Program at HMC.
This was the first time the symposium was held as a hybrid-style event. Key speakers included Colonel Hussain Aman Al-Ali, Assistant Director of Community Police at the Ministry of Interior; Ms. Mona Al-Sulaiti, Head of Local Development at Qatar Red Crescent Society; as well as Dr. Ahmed Nazari, Director of the Language Center and Dr. Mowafa Househ, Associate Professor of Health Informatics from Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar.
In his keynote, Dr. Khalid Saeed, Regional Advisor for Mental Health at the World Health Organization (WHO), focused on the mental health and psychosocial aspects of COVID-19.
The World Health Organization's (WHO) global estimates suggest that mental health disorders affect more than 1 in 4 people in the course of their lives and about 1 in 10 adults at any one time. The most common disorders are depression and anxiety. Mental health issues can affect how a person feels, acts, and thinks; they can occur for a number of reasons and can affect anyone regardless of social circumstances, age, or gender.
Just like a physical illness, mental illness can be treated and HMC encourages people who are concerned about a mental health issue to seek professional help, emphasizing that early diagnosis and support aids recovery outcomes.