Qatar tries new strategy to tackle mental health stigma

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Troy Benson/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

To help tackle mental health issues in Qatar, a local ministry has teamed up with a UK-based organization to launch a stigma-busting public awareness campaign in schools and across the country.

This week, the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) said it signed an agreement with Maudsley International for expert advice to help advance Qatar’s national mental health strategy.

The five-year plan was launched in 2013 and runs until 2018. In a statement, MOPH said:

“Maudsley International will work in partnership with the MoPH to support the development of mental health programs in schools, and provide expert advice to support the development of anti-stigma campaigns for Qatar.

This will help raise public awareness about mental health and reduce the stigma-associated mental illness.”

New research

Maudsley International has previously partnered with organizations in 40 countries to establish and improve their mental health plans.

The social enterprise is owned by the Maudsley charity, according to its website, and its experts come from the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.

In Qatar, Maudsley will work with local authorities to develop a national mental health research agenda and identify priority research programs.

The targeted research, coupled with mental health training over the next nine months, should improve the skills of healthcare workers in Qatar, leading to better recovery rates for patients, MOPH said.

High rate of depression

Qatar has been working to improve mental health services for some time.

A 2013 study by the then-Supreme Council of Health found that mental health issues in Qatar are “common” and are expected to affect one in five adults in the country.

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.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Andy Bernay-Roman/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Children appear to be particularly at risk. A separate study in 2013 found that nearly one in four teens here appear to be suffering from depression.

However, experts said that social stigmas and a perceived need to keep the illnesses secret have hampered the effectiveness of treatment.

At the time of its launch three years’ ago, the mental health strategy laid out a 10-point plan for change.

This included raising public awareness about mental health and reducing the stigma and educating healthcare professionals so that they can pick up on problems at an early stage.

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