29th Sep 2019

More specialists needed to meet growing demand for mental health services, say experts


Dubai Science Park, DSP, a science- and healthcare-focused business community, convened key industry stakeholders at its Advance Health forum to discuss the current status and future direction of mental health in the UAE.

The topic of the eighth edition of the forum, ‘Breaking Down Barriers in Mental Health’, was both timely and important as it focused on current strategies for awareness and prevention as well as existing healthcare provisions. This was in line with the Dubai Health Authority’s announcement earlier this year that it was looking to implement a new mental health strategy to align Dubai with international standards.

Speakers headlining the session included Dr. Nadia Dabbagh, Consultant Psychiatrist at Rashid Hospital, Dubai Health Authority, Dr. Charushila Thadani, Director of Health Services at AETNA International, Dr. Sarah Carter, Clinical Services Manager at CBT Clinics, Dr. Sarah Rasmi, Social Psychologist at Thrive Wellbeing, and Marwan Abdulaziz Janahi, Managing Director of DSP and Chairing Member of the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Equipment Taskforce of the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030.

Commenting on the event’s proceedings, Dr. Dabbagh said, “The main takeaway from today’s event is that mental health is just as important as physical health.”

“There are many effective interventions available to treat mental illnesses and we are working on making access to care smoother for patients in the UAE. In Dubai, the main goal is to find a more efficient way to connect people who need help to the right providers. Events such as this one are a step in the right direction because they start conversations which reduce stigma and raise awareness,” she added.

Mental well-being is one of the key performance indicators and priority areas outlined in the National Agenda of the UAE Vision 2021. The country’s government regularly undertakes new measures to address mental health issues and provide support to those who need it. The National Policy for the Promotion of Mental Health which aims to develop comprehensive mental health services for patients of all ages is one such measure.

Janahi commented on the growing demand for for mental health services in the country, adding, “Mental health is a subject that is often overlooked or misunderstood. Statistics released at the Dubai Health Forum revealed that nearly a third of Dubai’s population requires mental health help.”

According to the latest research by market research and data analytics firm YouGov, most UAE residents would seek professional help if they or someone they knew was suffering from mental health problems.

“While it is critical for us to implement new initiatives to enhance our mental health support services, such as programmes to assist primary care workers in detecting early signs, it is equally important to break the silence surrounding the topic,” the DSP Managing Director emphasised.

“We are committed to creating events that facilitate knowledge exchange for the benefit of our business partners and the science community at large. Today’s topic is particularly impactful simply because the more we discuss mental health, the more successful we will be in tackling this challenge at an early stage,” he concluded.

Dubai Science Park hosts the Advance Health series with the aim of promoting information sharing, encouraging networking opportunities and improving patient outcomes in the UAE.