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Posted On: 10 October 2020 09:40 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:08 pm

MoPH and health sector institutions celebrate World Mental Health Day

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The Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) & Health sector institutions celebrate World Mental Health Day this Saturday, under the theme "Mental Health for All; Greater Investment Greater Access".

Qatar's expansion of mental health services and improved access to care has enabled the healthcare system to meet the increased demand for professional mental health support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Director of Public Health at the Ministry of Public Health Sheikh Dr. Mohammed Al-Thani said that Qatar's proactive approach to healthcare service delivery during the pandemic resulted in the rapid implementation of new services that have benefited access to care.

"As more people have had to cope with COVID-19 impacting their physical and emotional health during these unprecedented times, this has led to many people having to cope with higher than usual levels of anxiety and stress," explained Dr. Al-Thani.

"However, where fear of stigma may previously have inhibited some people seeking an appointment in a clinic, the launch of the mental health helpline in April 2020 has proven to be immensely successful with people of all ages and nationalities who are looking for advice on coping with stress, anxiety and depression," added Dr. Al-Thani.

Deputy National Lead for Mental Health and Wellbeing and Executive Director of Operations at PHCC Dr. Samya Ahmad Al Abdulla explained that since its launch, the free and confidential national mental health helpline has handled over 13,000 calls and the launch of mental health virtual consultations across the healthcare system has also enabled greater access to care, resulting in increased in activity across the system.

"We have found that many people prefer the telephone consultation approach because of the convenience and the relative anonymity in receiving care, especially for those individuals who are concerned about stigma. As a result, we have seen far fewer people miss their scheduled appointments across the public healthcare system in the past six months than when we offered only clinic-based appointments," said Dr. Al-Abdulla

In addition to the helpline and virtual consultations improving access to mental health support, the expansion of services in recent years has meant there are now more options than ever before for people to access mental health support.

"A large focus of our strategy has been to make it easier for people to access mental health support in community settings, rather than visiting a specialist hospital. Our primary health centers have expanded the network of Integrated Advanced Support Clinics and our family doctors and nurses receive regular psychosocial training to facilitate basic mental health and wellbeing support. At PHCC we have also invested in appointing more psychiatrists and psychologists to run specialist support clinics for people experiencing mild to moderate mental health problems," explained Dr. Al Abdulla.

Chair of the Mental Health Service at HMC Dr. Majid Al Abdulla explained that the appointment of experienced mental health professionals and clinicians has enabled the prioritization of dedicated new patient slots which has meant more new patients have been seen than ever before. The changes have resulted in an increase in the number of new patients seen and, therefore, waiting times for patients have reduced. A triage service has also been introduced and is run by a clinical fellow under the direct supervision of a consultant. We have introduced a triage service with a view to ensuring that patients in need can be seen and guided to the most appropriate place, without compromising the access of those patients with scheduled appointments. The introduction of the triage service allows all patients who are known to the service to have quicker access to the service in times of crisis.

The opening of two new hospitals, Sidra Medicine and Naufar, has also boosted the provision of healthcare services in Qatar and helped the healthcare sector meet the increased demand.

"At Sidra Medicine, we have invested in developing a wider spectrum of mental health services covering children, adolescents as well as reproductive and perinatal psychiatry under our women's mental health program. Since 2016, the demand for mental health services at Sidra Medicine has significantly increased year on year. Our partnership and collaboration across the healthcare network especially during these challenging times is critical in ensuring we provide mental health services for people of all ages and backgrounds," said Prof. Muhammed Azeem, Chair of Psychiatry at Sidra Medicine.

Naufar is a purpose-built specialist center that focuses on wellbeing with an emphasis on helping individuals overcome addiction and substance use disorders. Since opening, Naufar has assisted people of all ages to overcome addiction by motivating them and helping them to achieve a healthier, more productive, and happier life.

Source: Qatar News Agency