Programmes for sound mind need to be given attention - GulfToday

Programmes for sound mind need to be given attention


Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

Everyone’s full potential shall be harnessed and developed through more openness and acceptance of mental health as a public issue, combined with well-studied most pertinent policies jointly acted upon.

This was the common ground among five mental health supporters in the UAE whom Gulf Today interviewed recently as “World Mental Health Day” is on Oct.10 (Saturday), since 1992, initiated by the international grassroots education purpose-driven World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH).

The five were Abu Dhabi School of Management-Masters in Business Administration director Dr. Rommel Pilapil Sergio, Amina Hospital (Ajman) Internal Medicine consultant Dr. Tariq Karim, RAK Hospital-Counselling & Psychology Unit clinical psychologist Prateeksha Shetty, Heriot-Watt University Dubai Student Well-Being adviser Prathna Singh, and University of Birmingham Dubai-Psychology Programmes director Dr. Anthony Murphy.

They gave their respective views on the unified call of the World Health Organisation, the non-profit entity United for Global Mental Health (which from Oct. 9, Friday leads the world in its 24-hour #Move for Mental Health virtual march against all forms of stigma), and the WFMH “for a massive scale-up in mental health issued on Aug. 27, 2020 in connection with this year’s Oct.10 annual event. They agreed on the standpoint of the three international bodies regarding mental health still in the backburner when it should never be; for, everyone is and remains to be unhealthy if psychologically and psychiatrically unfit.

Sergio split mental health — that of being in a “poor” state and one being ”ill.” He noticed that the Novel Coronavirus pandemic has encouraged many employers to “formulate mental health programmes” for their employees even as some sectors and industries have opted for remote work; such that these initiatives done either “internal to the company, outsourced, or online has become a fad.

 Some employers are even considering a specification of their health insurance to include support for behavioural and mental health consultation as an investment for their employees’ well-being.”

Tariq said investments in mental health have come in trickles and not as quickly as it should be. Both public and private stakeholders must include in their individual or group blueprints continuing learning education (CLE) for everyone interested: “Just 10 per cent of (poor and developing) countries have national suicide prevention strategy.”

Shetty shared the same opinion with Sergio and Tariq. She enumerated the following as the need of the hour: changes in public health policy; adequate budgeting and funding for training of professionals; provision of accessible and available mental health facilities, logistics and services for all; continuing action for proper and correct information and messaging; more epidemiological research; and provision of affordable insurance coverage for psychiatric and psychological consultations, services and therapies.

Singh reiterated the obligatory CLEs. She pointed out the prominent role of the educational system in everyone’s psychological make-up to adulthood: “(In our university), our students have an easy access to a team of trained professionals accredited by relevant professional (organizations) and qualified to provide emotional support and guidance.”

Murphy echoed his co-interviewees’ views including everyone’s need to flush out “stigma and self-stigma” from their cultural orientations and innate perceptions. He added: “Globally, I think we all have work to do.

Mental health does not exist in a vacuum, so a systemic approach with schools, employers, families and individuals to help understand mental health build resilience into their systems.

The link between physical wellness and mental wellness is quite established. The UAE does a lot to encourage physical activity and broader well-being practices such as mindfulness which is a great accomplishment and which can be grown and maintained.”

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