Posted on November 15, 2019

While many countries around the world do not have a mental health policy, Qatar has had a decade-long commitment to developing mental health services.

The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) along with public sector healthcare providers is working to tackle the stigma often associated with mental health. The stigma often acts as a barrier to people seeking help. Tackling stigma, improving access to mental health services and integrating physical and mental health are key to delivering the priorities of the National Health Strategy 2018-2022 in Qatar. It is worth mentioning that a campaign was recently launched to raise public awareness about mental health and wellbeing.

Mahmoud al Raisi, chief of Continuing Care at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), said: “The early work done following the publication of the first National Mental Health Strategy in 2013 has laid a solid foundation on which to build.” “A recent study commissioned by MoPH on attitudes about mental health in Qatar shows that people are increasingly prepared to talk about mental health and are looking for ways to access help. We are firmly focused on building on this to improve access, reduce stigma and to integrate physical and mental health in settings that people are happy to use.

“We will continue to pursue international best practices and move away from providing, predominantly, institutional-based care, to integrated community facilities, close to where people live. We are working closely with Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) to increase access within primary health centres and there are new clinics operating across our hospitals in HMC, enabling the public to receive services in settings that are not associated with traditional psychiatric services clinics. We will open a community service hub in the north of Qatar building on the comprehensive community services which are already in place in south and west Doha,” added Raisi.

Dr Samya al Abdulla, executive director of Operations at PHCC, remarked: “Our Corporation has launched the Support Clinic at five health centres, namely Rawdat Al Khail, Leabaib, Al Thumama, Al Wajbah, and Qatar University, in addition to introducing the Integrated Psychiatry Clinic at Al Thumama, Al Wajbah, and Qatar University health centres. Plans are also in place to gradually launch it in the rest of our specialised centres in the future. The expansion of mental health services is being done in the framework of implementing the goals of the National Health Strategy 2018-2022, which states that 20 percent of mental health services in the country should be provided through primary care by 2020.” Dr Abdulla added: “Providing easy access for patients and their families in the community is very important to reduce the stigma that prevents patients from seeking assistance.”

Dr Majid al Abdullah, senior consultant psychiatrist and acting chair of Psychiatry at HMC, explained: “A key priority of the National Health Strategy 2018-2022 is Healthy and Safe Employees, and we have been working closely with this programme to promote mental health in the workplace. Within HMC we have established two psychological support clinics in our Staff Clinic, to support our staff with any mental health concerns. We also offer this service to strategic partners, and have recently launched an integrated mental health service for Qatar Airways staff.”

Iain Tulley, CEO of HMC’s Mental Health Service and the National Health Strategy lead for the Mental Health and Wellbeing workstream, explained that while investment in new hospital facilities is part of the long-term expansion plan, greater focus will be placed on the development of community-based care and home treatment.

source: Qatar Tribune