Mental health is an integral part of overall good health. Help is available for all those that need it.
We can all feel a bit low at times, coping with the normal emotional ups and downs of life, or having that feeling of just being a little bit off.
However, sometimes it is more than ‘off’ – it can be a feeling of overwhelming sadness or grief, something that no one else will understand and that you feel embarrassed talking about.
Mental health is still considered taboo, especially when compared to physical illness, but gradually the situation is improving. Health services are increasing, employers are recognising the need to discuss openly in the workplace, and schools are offering counselling to students.
A person may feel a change in mental health due to a number of reasons. Changes in everyday life – bereavement of a family member, friend or pet, suffering a job loss or an injury – can sometimes lead to a change in mental state. For example, it is thought that postnatal depression can occur in 25% of women following childbirth.
Some people suffer confusion, especially older people, which may be due to a dementia-related condition such as Alzheimer’s disease. However, it can also be caused by a head injury, an existing or undetected medical condition, reactions to prescribed medication, or intoxication from alcohol and non-prescribed/illegal drugs.
There are two global initiatives that aim to increase awareness of mental health through education and which advocate against social stigma. Since 2003, the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) has collaborated with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Federation for Mental Health for World Suicide Prevention Day, observed on 10 September each year.
World Mental Health Day, observed on 10 October, further aims to raise awareness of mental health issues. It began in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global non-governmental organisation with members in more than 150 countries. It is recognised by the United Nations and WHO.
The theme for World Mental Health Day 2021 is ‘Mental Health Care for All: Let’s Make it a Reality’. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on people’s mental health. Some groups, including health and other frontline workers, students, people living alone, and those with pre-existing mental health conditions, have been particularly affected. And services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders have been significantly disrupted.
Many of those who experience mental health difficulties turn to the support of family and friends. Further support can be given by a family doctor, and additional help is often available from community mental health services.
Seeking help in Qatar
According to Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), one in five people in Qatar will experience a mental illness at some stage of their life.
Law No 16 of 2016 on the rights of patients with mental illness defines the rights of citizens and residents regarding their mental health treatment. It includes details about where and how patients can be treated, including those that may be treated without their consent (known as compulsory admission). The law offers full protection for patients seeking mental healthcare services in Qatar.
Specialist care and intervention are widely available from HMC. Their Mental Health Service initiative has seen a number of developments, which started under the Qatar National Mental Health Strategy (QNMHS) 2013–2018 and which progressed into the Mental Health Strategic Framework (MHSF) 2018–2022. Both policies are aligned with the WHO Global Mental Health Action Plan (2013–2022).
Under QNMHS and MHSF there has been an expansion of existing services, and the introduction of new services and new facilities to provide the best possible mental healthcare. The Mental Health Service at HMC is committed to promoting good mental health and wellbeing, offering effective treatment and providing care.
HMC recommends those seeking professional help should initially visit their local primary healthcare centre. Here the doctor will be able to refer you should further assessment and diagnosis be required. These assessments will determine the nature of the illness and the right type of care and treatment that should be provided. Many patients receive this in the community, but other options may be offered.
The Consultation and Liaison Service offered by HMC provides psychological support and counselling for patients who are being treated for other conditions within HMC hospitals. For example, patients being treated for cancer have experienced severe trauma or a new mother may be suffering from post-natal depression. The Consultation and Liaison team are based at a number of sites, including Hamad General Hospital, National Center for Cancer Care and Research, Al Khor Hospital and Al Wakra Hospital.
The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service is a multi-disciplinary service for children and young people up to the age of 18. Referrals can be made by a doctor or a school, and the facility is located in Muaither, offering a number of specialist services to children and young people, and also their families and carers.
This year, the Ministry of Public Health has launched a national campaign called “Are you ok?” It is a free and confidential mental health helpline for anyone feeling low, anxious or depressed. People may call 16000 to get help.
- Mood changes – from very happy to very sad, maybe in a short space of time
- Feeling sad, anxious, fearful or angry
- Feeling physical distress
- Having suicidal thoughts
- Wanting to self-harm
- Wanting to harm others
If you have any of these feelings for the first time, or if an existing problem is getting worse, it is vital that you seek help.
In an emergency, patients should go to the Emergency Department at Hamad General Hospital, Al Wakra Hospital or Al Khor Hospital.
Tips and advice to boost mental health
Having good physical health can lead to better emotional and mental wellbeing. If you are suffering from depression, stress or anxiety, there are a number of resources offering practical tips and advice.
Hamad Medical Corporation’s website hamad.qa has links to reference sites for international groups such as the UK’s NHS, The National Institute of Mental Health in the US, and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, which offer a wealth of resources.
Lifestyle support is also available in Qatar from Alcoholics Anonymous 3094 9661 (males), 6692 6745 (females), and Overeaters Anonymous 5512 7252
Author: Sarah Palmer
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