The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and health sector institutions are celebrating the World Mental Health Day on Saturday, under the theme ‘Mental Health for All; Greater Investment – Greater Access’.
Qatar’s expansion of mental health services and improved access to care has enabled the healthcare system to meet the increased demand for professional mental health support throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Majid al-Abdulla
Sheikh Dr Mohamed bin Hamad al-Thani, director of Public Health, MoPH, stated that Qatar’s proactive approach to healthcare service delivery during the pandemic resulted in the rapid implementation of new services that have benefited access to care.
“More people have had to cope with Covid-19 impacting their physical and emotional health during these unprecedented times and this has led to many people having to cope with higher than usual levels of anxiety and stress,” explained Sheikh Dr Mohamed.
“However, where fear of stigma may previously have inhibited some people seeking an appointment in a clinic, the launch of the mental health helpline in April 2020 has proven to be immensely successful with people of all ages and nationalities who are looking for advice on coping with stress, anxiety and depression,” he added.
Dr Samya Ahmad al-Abdulla
Dr Samya Ahmad al-Abdulla, deputy national lead for Mental Health and Wellbeing and executive director of operations at Primary Health Care Corporation, explained that since its launch, the free and confidential national mental health helpline has handled over 13,000 calls and the launch of mental health virtual consultations across the healthcare system has enabled greater access to care, resulting in increased in activity across the system.
“We have found that many people prefer the telephone consultation approach because of the convenience and the relative anonymity in receiving care, especially for those individuals who are concerned about stigma. As a result, we have seen far fewer people miss their scheduled appointments across the public healthcare system in the past six months than when we offered only clinic-based appointments,” said Dr al-Abdulla.
In addition to the helpline and virtual consultations improving access to mental health support, the expansion of services in recent years has meant there are now more options than ever before for people to access mental health support.
Dr Majid al-Abdulla, chair of the Mental Health Service at Hamad Medcial Corporation, explained that the appointment of experienced mental health professionals and clinicians have enabled the prioritisation of dedicated new patient slots.
“The changes have resulted in an increase in the number of new patients seen and, therefore, waiting times for patients have reduced. A triage service has also been introduced and is run by a clinical fellow under the direct supervision of a consultant. We have introduced a triage service with a view to ensuring that patients in need can be seen and guided to the most appropriate place, without compromising the access of those patients with scheduled appointments.’’
The opening of two new hospitals, Sidra Medicine and Naufar has also boosted the provision of healthcare services in Qatar and helped the healthcare sector meet increase demand.
Naufar is a purpose-built specialist centre that focuses on wellbeing with emphasis in helping individuals overcome addiction and substance use disorders. Since opening, Naufar has assisted people of all ages overcome addiction by motivating them and helping them achieve a healthier, more productive and happier life.