Qatar is set to have psychiatry services in primary health settings, so as to boost community mental healthcare services here. This comes as part of a mental health plan that aims to reduce the incidence, prevalence and severity of mental illnesses in Qatar.
“National Mental Health plan focuses on merging mental health into community health system so as to provide services to all,” said Dr Suhaila Ghuloum, Head of Department of Psychiatry, Hamad Medical Corporation.
“The plan mainly focuses on public awareness on mental health issues as well as to make the mental health services part of primary healthcare. The psychiatry services will be merged with services at Primary Health Centers (PHC); for example, the psychiatry services for children can be merged with paediatric departments at the centre,” she told a local daily.
As part of the plan, the focus of the department is on providing community psychiatry services. This will be undertaken in proximity with the community so as to reduce the burden on hospitals.
Community psychiatry services are important not just because these help to remove the stigma associated with psychiatric disorders but also increase awareness of the problem. Since the service is given in settings that are closer to the community, it can help in enhanced crisis intervention, provide continuous care and help families to deal with patients. The Psychiatry Department is providing education and training to PHC physicians to help them detect cases sooner and refer them to experts, if needed.
A research undertaken here in 2009 found that almost a quarter of Qatari adults who attended PHC showed symptoms of at least one mental disorder. The study was carried out between July and December 2009 on common mental disorders in the Qatari population attending primary health care settings and to identify people at high risk.
A total of 2,080 Qatari subjects between 18 to 65 years were approached and 1,660 patients participated in the study. The overall prevalence of mental disorders was 36.6 percent, with depression (13.5 percent) being the most common mental disorder, followed by anxiety disorders (10.3 percent).
“World Health Organisation has confirmed that one in five has psychiatry disorder and the number is high. Public awareness is low on mental health, and in the past, most key focus was on physical well being. However, worldwide, currently there is parallel or more concern on psychiatry issues. Hence Qatar too has implemented specific strategy and plan for mental health care,” she said. Qatar aims to develop and implement comprehensive mental health services with emphasis on community-based care, and to increase public awareness and de-stigmatise perceptions of mental health.
Its key targets are to ensure that the number of psychiatric beds is at least 12.5 per 100,000 people and that the approved model of care is implemented by 2016, according to National Health Strategy. The metal health plan aims reduce the incidence, prevalence and severity of mental illness in Qatar apart from reducing the prevalence of risk factors that contribute to the onset of mental illness and prevent longer term recovery. It will aim at increasing the ability of people with a mental illness to participate in the community, education and training. The plan will also stress on increasing public education and awareness in order to remove social stigma associated to mental illnesses
“Currently, studies are being conducted to find statistical data on mental health cases in Qatar. We worked with Qatar Foundation to collect the data and now awaiting analysis. The data and statistics will be announced in few months time,” she said.
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