The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) stressed that Qatar has made significant progress in the last decade toward developing a world-class healthcare system and has embraced this year's World Mental Health Day theme of "Mental health is a universal human right", which was set by the World Foundation of Mental Health.
MoPH, Hamad Medical Corp (HMC) and Primary Health Care Corp (PHCC), along with private, academic, and non-governmental institutions have arranged multiple events to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing in Qatar.
Dr Salih Ali al-Marri, Assistant Minister for Health Affairs, explained that Qatar has embraced the ethos underpinning this year's theme: "Mental health as a universal human right" is reflected by Qatar's dedication to building a compassionate and resilient society that prioritises mental well-being as an integral part of overall health.
"The Ministry of Public Health has continued to dispel stigma and improve access to high-quality mental health services, enabling the population to seek mental healthcare in a safe environment when they need it, and maintaining their dignity and respect. We will continue to work with healthcare partners to raise the level of awareness and knowledge of mental health and well-being among the community and to encourage a positive dialogue around mental health in the country," added Dr Salih.
Qatar set the improvement of mental health and well-being as one of its seven main priority areas for the National Health Strategy 2018-2022.
Iain Tulley, National Health Strategy Lead for Mental Health and Wellbeing, said: "Since the launch of the first National Mental Health Strategy (2013) and the National Health Strategy (2018) Qatar has made an enormous progress in improving access to services, reducing stigma and developing integrated services across the system. It is one of the leading countries in the Arab world to have a concerted plan of how to enhance its delivery of mental healthcare to better meet the needs of its growing and diverse population."
One fundamental element in enhancing the accessibility of primary healthcare services has involved increasing both the capacity and capabilities within primary care.
Dr Samya Ahmad al-Abdulla, Senior Consultant Family Physician, and Executive Director of Operations at PHCC and Deputy National Lead for Mental Health & Wellbeing, explained that the introduction of high quality, accessible, integrated services in Primary Health Care Centres helped bring services closer to people's homes.
"The services across primary care have increased significantly, from the introduction of screening to the provision of psychological therapies for those seeking additional support. We have invested considerable efforts in upskilling our family physicians and specialist nurses to identify and treat mild to moderate mental health conditions," said Dr al-Abdulla.
With the fear of stigma being a key factor in preventing many people from seeking help for psychological distress, the launch of the National Mental Health helpline in April 2020, has been one of the most impactful developments in recent years.
The award-winning helpline, which is accessible through the Qatar Healthcare Unified Contact Center #16000 telephone number, was initially developed to provide support to people suffering from stress or mental disorders during the pandemic. The helpline has now been embedded into the provision of services and has become a primary route for individuals accessing mental health services in Qatar.
Access to services in the community has also been enhanced with the availability of virtual services such as tele-psychiatry, women's virtual services and access to the National Mental Health Helpline.
Dr Majid al-Abdulla, Chairman of Psychiatry and Medical Director of the Mental Health Service at HMC, said that Qatar acknowledges there is still more to do but is determined to build on the success past decade of work that provided an excellent foundation for the coming years.
"Our focus over the next 10 years will be to enhance and develop services even further, using existing and new technologies to ensure even easier access to integrated holistic care."
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