Posted on June 18, 2014

Teachers, social workers, psychologists, support teachers and school nurses from across 20 independent schools for boys and girls recently took part in an educational workshop aimed at raising awareness about mental health and dealing with mental issues among students and teenagers.

About 60 participants took part in the workshop organized by Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) as part of an Academic Health System (AHS) initiative and in collaboration with HMC’s Psychiatry Department, the Supreme Education Council (SEC) and Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC). Dr. Suhaila Ghuloum, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at HMC and Head of the AHS Medical Board,explained that the aim of the workshop was to promote the concept of mental health in a school setting and enhance communication with students, as well as to highlight some common mental health issues relating to teenagers by identifying the proper ways of dealing with the issues and the most suitable time for referral.

“Mental illness is a health problem which significantly interferes with an individual’s cognitive, emotional and social abilities and may, in most cases, lead to a reduced ability to function or cope with normal daily life activities. Early detection and intervention helps to achieve the best treatment outcomes,” said Dr. Ghuloum. She mentioned that depression, anxiety and phobias are among the most common types of mental issues that are prevalent in Qatar, with around 50% of them starting to manifest in children aged 14 years.

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Dr. Ghuloum added that there are several ways of preventing mental issues from escalating, such as effective family and school support, participation in social activities and creating strong social relationships. She added that positive self-esteem and the sense of control over personal life decisions help to build a balanced personality that is best equipped to cope with daily life requirements. Dr. Hanan Derby, consultant in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, specifically discussed depression, stating that 11% of adolescents are affected by the illness at varying levels of severity by the age of 18, particularly females. She added that not all adolescents seek the necessary help. She also noted that anxiety affects about 13% of male and female youths aged nine to 17 years.

Another consultant in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Dr. Mai Al Marisi, emphasized the importance of providing support to students, through building a strong school community, self-education, training on social skills’ enhancement and promotion of relationships with guardians aiming to achieve effective cooperation between school and home. This is in addition to direct communication with students to ensure privacy through positive listening. Dr. Amira Al Kharraz, Specialist Psychiatrist at HMC, member of the AHS sub-medical board and school workshops’ coordinator, indicated that the action plan for mental health awareness at schools covers five years and is divided into a number of stages.

“The first stage relates to schools, and we have dealt with 63 independent preparatory and secondary schools, holding workshops and lectures in Arabic and English. These activities witnessed positive response by various attendees. The second stage is planned to begin with 17 private schools, in the form of educative lectures in the English language,” she informed.

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