Dubai mental health programme to cover newborns and toddlers
Dubai - The programme is planned to start this year from the Latifa Hospital and will then be expanded to other DHA hospitals.
Published: Mon 21 Jan 2019, 10:05 PM
Last updated: Tue 22 Jan 2019, 12:11 AM
Dubai is going to introduce Infant Mental Health, a programme for newborns to five-year-olds designed to take care of the long-term mental health of residents.
Dr Nadia Dabbagh, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Rashid Hospital and programme lead for the Mental Health Strategy at the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), said "these children will be adults tomorrow" and with such early interventions, they are less likely to use drugs or other substances.
"This is the right time to start with children . we want parents to bond with them and give them a feeling of security," she told Khaleej Times on the sidelines of Dubai Health Forum 2019 that kicked off on Monday.
The programme is planned to start this year from the Latifa Hospital and will then be expanded to other DHA hospitals.
"Babies and children have feelings and emotions, so we want parents to engage with them as early as they can.... This translates into long-term mental health security," said Dr Azhar Mohammed Abu Al Ali, senior clinical psychologist at the Latifa Hospital who will be leading the programme.
"We want to engage babies as they are developing," she said.
Dr Dabbagh said that with babies and young children, presentations of symptoms are not straightforward. "A baby does not come to you saying I am feeling depressed or anxious, but they do come from a part of a system so you need to take a holistic and systematic approach," she said, adding that a bit of detective work has to be done.
"Simple things matter, including how the baby is sleeping, eating or meeting all required milestones needed for the first five years," she said. More people will be trained to pick up signs of distress in babies. "Bringing up children in Dubai is stressful for expatriates because of the family structure and the couple's work responsibilities . This also puts a strain on the children," Dr Dabbagh said.
This year, the forum focuses on family health and community wellbeing, human capital in health, patient-centered healthcare, public health sustainable economics, innovation in technology, and youth and healthcare.
Humaid Al Qutami, director-general of the DHA, said during his opening speech: "The forum aims to reinforce the efforts of the DHA to achieve its goal of reaching a healthier and happier society. It hopes to achieve this by learning from ideas, knowledge and experiences shared by experts and scientists in the forum and adopting them in the UAE."