The Department of Psychiatry at Sidra Medicine, part of Qatar Foundation (QF), offers comprehensive Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), the hospital has said.
This year so far it has had more than 6,500 patient encounters, two-thirds of which were with children under the age of 18 and the rest with perinatal women.
This is significant because“it’s like the first 1,000 days principle - if you invest in the first years of a baby's life, you are reducing adversity and increasing resilience when and where it makes a difference," Dr Felice Watt, division chief, Women's Mental Health, Sidra Medicine said.
Most recent figures show that Qatar’s population includes around half a million children and adolescents, and about 28,000 babies are being born every year. Just four years ago, the country had just one child psychiatrist and almost no perinatal services. But huge changes have been brought about in a comparatively short time with contributions from Sidra Medicine.
Depression, anxiety and impact of bullying at school are by far the most common disorders among children and adolescents that are treated by CAMHS along with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and autism. Among perinatal women, the most common conditions treated are anxiety, depression and family issues.
While Qatar is the only country in the region, and one of the few worldwide, that has a National Autism Strategy in place which enables children and families to receive best available help, there are still other aspects that need to be addressed. One of them is the challenge faced by many healthcare professionals in Qatar which is treating patients of over 50 different nationalities, and the complications this can bring for both parents and children.
As Prof Mohamed Waqar Azeem, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Sidra Medicine explains, “Mental and emotional well-being does not mean lack of mental illness.”
The academic performance and development of children is also threatened by the epidemic of sleeplessness that is manifesting in young people today, driven by increased exposure to mobile phones and other digital screens. Experts say the unnatural stimuli this gives to their brains, accompanied by the content they are viewing, is having a profound impact on their mental development in ways that doctors and researchers are only just beginning to understand - not least of which is the recognised link between lack of sleep, low self-esteem, and other psychiatric issues.
“To help address the above-mentioned challenges, we are happy to announce the pilot of the Wellness Ambassador Programme in three QF schools, to bring specialist help directly into the schools where so many of the issues start. This will lead to increased mental health awareness among students, teachers, counsellors, and families and leading to prevention and early intervention, ” Prof Azeem added.
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