UAE keeps mental health issues at bay - GulfToday

UAE keeps mental health issues at bay


Picture used for illustrative purpose only.

If there is one nasty consequence the coronavirus has triggered, it is the impact on the psychological health of many. The many hours of lockdown, social distancing, the lack of face-to-face interaction, the curbs on handshakes, the restrictions on visits to cinemas and other entertainment hotspots –– all this has visibly affected those hit by the pandemic.

The World Health Organisation has said that services for mentally ill and substance abuse patients have been disrupted worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the disease is expected to cause further distress for many.

Only 7% of the 130 countries reported that all mental health services were fully open, with 93% reporting curtailed services for various disorders, it said.

The pandemic is causing a mental health crisis in the Americas due to heightened stress and use of drugs and alcohol during six months of lockdowns and stay-at-home measures.

The pandemic also has brought in its wake a surge in domestic violence against women.

Many people are stressed by fear of developing the severe illness caused by the novel coronavirus, while doctors, nurses and health workers are working longer hours than ever before and risking their lives in hospitals, she said.

In one case, one veteran emergency room physician in Detroit, Anne Messman, developed insomnia and became unusually irritated with people she loved.

She began experiencing persistent sleepless nights in late March, around the time seven COVID-19 patients died in a single nine-hour shift. But she did not think her insomnia was due to the dramatic one-day death toll. As an ER doctor, death was no stranger to her.

Perhaps, it was that the victims’ families had to be informed by phone because relatives are barred from hospitals fighting the highly infectious disease.

Perhaps, she thought, the sleeplessness was fuelled by worries about her own safety. She takes medication that suppresses her immune system, putting her at higher risk from the coronavirus.

In Hong Kong too many are having anxiety issues and an unprecedented level of other mental health problems.

A University of Hong Kong survey earlier this year found that a third of adults in the special administrative region reported symptoms of PTSD, up from 2 per cent in 2015, while 11 per cent reported depression, up from 2 per cent during the Occupy protests in 2014.

In this respect, the UAE has fared remarkably well. It has managed to keep the number of the mentally disturbed down. A survey by the Department of Community Development showed that  55% of all males feel an improvement in their mental health, while 53% of all females also feel that their mental health has improved since the start of the pandemic.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention has been keen to develop effective smart systems that offer high-quality mental health services in accordance with safety and privacy policy. These services include the launch of virtual psychiatric clinics for patients in the outpatient clinic, the development of virtual pharmacy services, the provision of remote guidance for psychiatric drugs, and medicine home delivery services. The ministry has also developed virtual clinics for psychosocial rehabilitation programmes for addicted patients and other psychological departments.

The Ministry continues to provide community mental health services, such as the designation of home care and support teams for chronic cases in order to prevent relapse, the activation of the virtual visits programme for inpatients to enable them to meet their families.

What’s more the Health Ministry has formed multidisciplinary teams including psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers to provide 24/7 service to all the infected cases or those suspected or quarantined in all MoHAP’s facilities, in accordance with the best international standards and practices.

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