UAE: Affluent people are struggling with depression and anxiety — What can they do?

Mental health continues to be under-resourced in affluent nations with advanced healthcare systems

By Mohsin Raza

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Published: Mon 29 Apr 2024, 4:34 PM

There are an estimated 793 million people suffering from mental health disorders, with higher prevalence in regions in the Middle East and North Africa. In 2020, a study found that 57 per cent of the population in the UAE was experiencing at least one mental health disorder — with depression and anxiety being the leading diagnosis. Despite these alarming figures, mental health continues to be under-resourced in affluent nations with advanced healthcare systems.

One of the most common stigma’s in Arab populations is that mental health isn’t a real thing, or rather, a weakness. It is assumed that struggles like anxiety and depression will pass with time, and don’t need to be addressed. People feel isolated, and unable to speak about what they are experiencing.

These issues can become even more prevalent among affluent individuals and their families. Dr. Sarah Boss, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, works directly with this population at The Balance Healthcare Group: a luxury mental health, addiction and wellness clinic based in Mallorca, Spain.

She reminds us that wealth comes with new mental challenges. When money is of no matter, addictions to shopping and cosmetic procedures can quickly become a trend among affluent individuals. These often develop out of the pressure that comes along with their status. They think they have to look, feel, and be a certain way. This can be particularly intense for children of successful individuals.

“Wealth often leads young people to have no purpose. They don’t know what to do with their lives because they’ve inherited so much. They feel lost. They don’t know where to go. The money can take away the feeling of wanting to go create for themselves and find what they thrive in. Not to mention the pressure to achieve something like their parents, or grandparents did. The pressure can be immense, and that pressure can lead to a loss of meaning and depression can take hold," she says.

These young people are also often living between different countries, and cultures. Their schooling is often in Europe, while their family is back home in the UAE. They live between worlds, and that culture clash can be very hard mentally.

There is a huge empathy gap when it comes to the struggles that wealthy people face. People don’t want to hear about their problems, because they assume money makes them go away.

Dr Sarah Boss knows that mental health doesn’t discriminate. “We want to listen. We understand the lifestyle. In the UAE, we know how strong the family dynamics are." Dr Boss also knows that regular therapy doesn’t cut it. “Therapy today is very cognitive. If someone is doing pure psychotherapy or psychiatry that isn’t helpful. A good therapist should be co-regulating a patient. A session should end with somatic work. We have to include the body and the nervous system into each treatment."

At The Balance, treatment for depression goes far beyond basic talk therapy. In fact, they’ve made it their mission to change the way healing works. They look at everything: the microbiome, biochemistry, and background of each individual. Depression treatment ranges from psychotherapy, medication if needed, and trying non invasive techniques like TMS or TDCS. With complementary therapies like somatic work, physical training, and art, music, or equine therapy, they have every kind of healing practice in house, and build a program that evolves as you do.

“In every culture, there are things you can’t talk about. With our UAE clients, it can be particularly impactful to speak about things that they felt they previously couldn’t — in a private, safe place. People feel relief opening up. We’re able to make sense of things that they’ve maybe never even spoke about before.”

"A client may be with us from four to eight weeks, it depends on their needs and the severity of the issue. During treatment, we incorporate family sessions. A family may come for a weekend to do group sessions, they may come for a week. We often continue them after their time with us has ended - there is always room for improvement with communication styles.At The Balance, we build a beautiful, attractive program so that people feel like they can engage with life again, and finally be excited by it," Boss adds.

Although mental health conditions are getting worse among affluent individuals, people like Dr. Sarah Boss and The Balance HealthCare Group are there to provide empathy where others cannot.

— Mohsin Raza is the marketing expert at The Balance Rehab Clinic.

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