Qatar launches first in a series of community mental health centers

Photos courtesy of HMC

Qatar’s first community-based specialized mental health center has been officially opened by the Prime Minister.

The Enaya Continuing Care Center in Muaither will provide patients a “home-like” setting and an alternative to hospital-based treatments, Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC) said in a statement.

It is the first in what is expected to be a network of similar centers that will launch in Qatar to help residents with mental health issues.

The new center provides a range of outpatient services for children and teenagers up to the age of 18 years old, and a daycare program for adult women who have long-term mental health issues.

There’s also a residential service for women who have complex mental needs that require support but are not acute, HMC said.

A team of community specialists at the center will also undertake follow-up home visits for adults who have had mental health issues, while a similar support program designed for the elderly will provide a variety of medical therapies in their homes.

It appears patients need a doctor’s referral to avail of the center.

The services provided are in addition to hospital-based treatments and are part of the Qatar National Mental Health Strategy, which launched in 2013.

Who is affected?

Research for the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) plan found that one in five Qataris was living with a mental disorder, with mental health issues particularly common among women and young adults.

Around 18 percent of people in Qatar have depression, that report said.

A separate study conducted in 2013 found that young people are particularly at risk, with as many as one in four of Qatar’s teenagers battling depression.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Mental Health Foundation / Facebook

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

At the time, the SCH said that 20 percent of people seeking help are diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, 19 percent with major depressive disorder and 13 percent with other psychiatric disorders. About 10 percent of mental disorders are classified as severe.

But social stigma and a perceived need to keep the illnesses secret has hampered the effectiveness of treatment.

One of the issues highlighted in the report was “treatment being offered in the wrong places (for instance exclusively in hospitals rather than in community settings),” and the plan laid out the steps for a national “system-wide change.”

At the launch of the new center yesterday with Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Dr. Hanan Al Kuwari, minister for public health and HMC’s managing director, said:

“The benefit of community-based care options for the treatment of mental health issues are vast; a community setting is widely recognized as more beneficial for specific cases, particularly those patients who are in a rehabilitation or recovery phase.

While hospital-based care can sometimes be necessary for patients with acute conditions, there is clear evidence to show that a number of conditions are best supported in the community, which is why HMC is developing community-based care options,” she added.

Dr Mahmoud Al Raisi, chief of continuing care at HMC, said in a statement that the new center in Muaither was the first in what is planned to be a series of similar community-based mental health facilities across Doha, although no precise figures or timeline have been given for these.

Seeking help

One of the main challenges for experts in Qatar is getting patients with mental health issues to seek appropriate help.

Following the suicide of a student at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar last year, counselors have been battling to reduce the stigma.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Shawn Carpenter/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Speaking to Doha News at the time, Patricia Collins, a counselor at Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q), said that talking to a therapist is still seen as taboo among many.

“We’re in a culture that doesn’t have a lot of exposure or practice at opening (up). We keep it in the family. We think that it makes us look a certain way if we have problems.

There’s a pervasive stigma related to health seeking behaviors. There is a faulty belief that only crazy people go here. Yes, we do work with people who have serious emotional issues, but we also deal with people who are dealing with loss and grief, adjustment problems, performance anxiety. We need to tear down the walls that keep people from seeking help.”

Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide, she added.

Meanwhile, in the current tighter economic times financial pressures are taking their toll on some residents.

Indian community leaders last month said there has been a recent apparent spike in the number of suicides, and are looking into reports that 10 nationals have committed suicide so far in 2016.

While the reasons behind these deaths are not known, leaders anecdotally have heard of an increasing number of cases in which individuals fall into despair after taking out loans and subsequently losing their jobs.

Thoughts?

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