UAE: Experts optimistic about future of mental health, suggest collaboration between entities to improve patient care

More specialist nurses, health and social workers being trained to take care of wellbeing of population, says top official


Lamya Tawfik

Published: Thu 8 Dec 2022, 9:24 PM

Last updated: Thu 8 Dec 2022, 9:29 PM

UAE mental health experts said that collaboration between various institutions, ministries and organisations in the country is the way forward.

They were speaking at the end of a five-day conference, the International Association for Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions (IACAPAP) Congress which held its 25th edition in Dubai.

Dr Essam Al Zarouni, acting chief executive officer for medical services sector at the Emirates Health Services said that he is optimistic as he sees that different health authorities and sectors are invested in mental health. “They allocate part of their budget, and they have strategies in place. I can see more initiatives and new things coming out over the next 5 to 10 years, so that we can take better care of our patient population,” he said.

Collaboration between entities is key and it is something that he said is already happening. “Overall, we will see different entities will work more collaboratively. In every project I am involved in or initiative we launch, someone will say something about mental health and wellbeing so I can see that all this hard work will have a positive effect and will transform into programmes in the country,” he said.

He added that the UAE will be one of the leading countries when it comes to mental health, especially when it comes to investing and using technologies that are essential for prevention, research and treatment.

More locals will also be trained in the field. “We will have more nurses specialised in mental health or social workers and specialists to take care of the wellbeing of different patient population,” he said.

Also on the panel on the future of mental health in the UAE was Dr. Meshal Sultan, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital and Inaugural Chair of the Scientific Committee for the Specialty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the National Institute for Health Specialties (NIHS), United Arab Emirates. He agreed with Dr. Essam about the importance of education and said: “I see the future in education in advancing, in addition to child and adolescent psychiatry, clinical psychology, training, social workers training, mental health nursing as well as beyond the medical field. There’s a huge room and a lot of room for improvement and I think the way forward is to collaborate.”

Noora Al Saadi, from Knowledge and Human Development Authority and the school inspection bureau said that learning and wellbeing will be seen as a single concept in the future. “Without wellbeing, learning can’t really happen,” she said.

She also said that collaboration whether on a government level or listening to children’s voices, teachers, parents as well as building external partnership with international organisation is essential in addition to creating platforms where best practices are shared.

Ebrahim Alharbi, early childhood workforce specialist from the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority, said that they are working on raising public awareness about mental health issues through outreach programs and webinars. “It’s still a stigma. It’s still not that acceptable to talk about mental health issues and it should be easy,” he said.

When it comes to training, he said they do in fact provide training for their partners and that they have programmes that address how teachers can deal with mental concerns and how to deal with children and maintain a healthy lifestyle when working with children. “They are the ones working with children and shaping their future so we’re trying to make the whole ecosystem in which they develop of the highest standard and we can’t do that without obviously addressing mental health concerns,” he said

Amal AlBlooshi, Director of the National Wellbeing Program at the Ministry of Community Development said that the National Wellbeing Strategy 2031 is already fully achieved and delivered. “The different objectives, including promoting good mental health is already being achieved thanks to the support of the leadership and the efforts of the various entities. There are many examples of different initiatives that were launched and delivered to ensure that our people are well,” she said adding that it has always been the priority in the UAE to make sure that the wellbeing of people is enhanced, and this will continue into the future.


More news from Lifestyle