UAE: Mental health issues on the rise among youngsters in post-Covid era; females most affected

Experts say more women have come in with mental health issues, compared to male patients, but this could be because in general males tend to avoid seeking help



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File
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Nandini Sircar

Published: Tue 6 Dec 2022, 5:44 PM

Mental health issues among adolescents and youth have seen a significant spike after Covid, experts say, with females being most affected.

Doctors at the 25th World Congress of IACAPAP 2022 in Dubai, said that with life returning to normal, the topic of mental health in a post-Covid world is gaining prominence, with one in eight children across the world grappling with an apparent mental health disorder.

“Mental health, especially among children is an extremely important topic, given the fact that vast majority of mental disorders start during childhood or youth in the county," said Dr Ammar Albanna, chair of the Congress, president of the Emirates Child Mental Health Society, and Head of Mental Health Centre of Excellence at Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital.

"Especially post Covid many are experiencing a surge in mental health conditions or mental disorders. This is happening across the world.”

Dr Ammar Albanna
Dr Ammar Albanna

He said that the world needs to to think innovatively and improve the systems of care to meet the demand and provide the best care for affected children and their families. "For the 25th edition of the World Congress we are bringing in experts from across the globe to discuss innovations and important ideas in order to initiate scientific discoveries in a bid to improve children's mental health here and globally.”

Helen Egger, co-founder, chief medical and scientific officer at Little Otter, a virtual early childhood mental health company, says: “Even the kids who get care, rarely get evidence-based care. So, I think it's really important for us to realise that we're not just talking about care, but also about the quality of care that kids are getting? We had a child mental health crisis before Covid, now it's much worse. There are some estimates that state there's been a 25 per cent increase in depression and anxiety amongst children during Covid."

Helen Egger
Helen Egger

He said that there are barriers keeping science from getting translated into care. The biggest one is mental health stigma, the shame that is associated and the misinformation.”

Doctors said that while global rates of mental health disorders remain high, more often issues manifest before an individual turns into an adult.

Dr Meshal Sultan, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at Al Jalila Children's and Specialty Hospital says: “Unfortunately, more than half of those with mental health disorders will not get the services that they require. Most mental health disorders will start before the age of 18.”

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He adds, “Since we have delegates from more than 85 countries, it's a global hub for individuals to come together. New methods will be discussed to bridge the gap, address the high demand and also to emphasise the importance of educating medical students, physicians and mental health specialists in child and adolescent mental health.”

Dr Omer Ahmad Saleemi Minhas, consultant of mental health of children and adolescents at Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital said: “We have had admission rates of people with mental health issues going up very year. The last three years, there is a clear incremental trend."

She said more females have come in with mental health issues, compared to male patients, but this could be because in general males tend to avoid seeking help compared to females.

Dr Minhas said: "Secondly, there is a cultural aspect and stigma as well. Bed occupancy rates give us a clue as to how many young people are accessing the service. There has been a clear rise since Covid-19.”


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